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How easy is it to avoid nuts in food

01:00 Mon 08th Apr 2002 |

A.� Nuts, particularly peanuts, are used in a surprisingly large number of products, including breads, desserts, yoghurts, chocolate and vegetarian products. If a production line is used for a food that contains nuts, there's a chance non-nut foods will be contaminated.

There's no specific British law on nut labelling, but there is a voluntary code of conduct outlined by the Institute of Grocery Distributors. This says a manufacturer should try to ensure its products don't carry traces of nuts.

Q.� What is a nut allergy

A. It's a reaction to the proteins in nuts, with symptoms that can be fairly mild - nausea and sreaming eyes - or more severe - swollen throat and mouth, drop in blood pressure and breathing difficulties. A sudden, severe reaction is known as anaphylactic shock and can be fatal. Some people have a reaction if there are minute traces of nut in the air, or even after kissing someone who has just eaten nuts.

Q.� Who gets nut allergies and why

A.� The British Nutrition Foundation estimates that up to one per cent of the population may be allergic to nuts. Most cases begin in childhood, and this may be the result of early exposure to nut allergens - in the womb, via breast milk or even from nut oils in eczema creams. The Department of Health suggests that if there's a family history of allergies, pregnant and lactating women can reduce the risk of their baby developing an allergy by avoiding peanuts and peanut products.

Q.� Which type of nuts are the commonest allergens

A.� Peanuts� - it's estimated they account for 75 per cent of nuts. Peanuts, however, are not really nuts, but legumes, and a person may be allergic to them and not tree nuts, or vice versa.

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By Katharine MacColl

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