Can You Eat Popcorn if You Have a Nut Allergy?

  • Author: Sue Dorrens
  • Published: September 1, 2022
  • Time to read: 5 min.

People with nut allergies have to be careful about what they eat. Research shows that about two in every 100 people have a nut allergy. Many of the snacks that other people enjoy are off-limits because even a trace of nuts can cause an allergic reaction.

But is popcorn safe? Can you eat popcorn if you have a nut allergy? Let’s take a look at the facts.

Is Popcorn Classed as a Nut?

No, popcorn is not classified as a nut. Popcorn is actually a type of corn that has been dried and then heated so that the kernels pop.

The scientific name for popcorn is “Zea mays everta,” and it is in the same family as sweet corn. While popcorn does contain some of the same nutrients as nuts, it is technically not a nut.

People with nut allergies can safely consume popcorn as long as it has not been contaminated with nuts.

Unfortunately, the terms used to describe food can be quite confusing. The words ‘seed,’ ‘grain,’ ‘nut’ and ‘cereal’ are sometimes used interchangeably. Perhaps you might be wondering: What is the difference?

Well, here is a simple list of definitions:

  • Nut: This is a dry fruit with a hard outer shell.
  • Seed: This is a part of a plant that can develop into another plant as long as it is provided with the right conditions for growth.
  • Grain: This is a small, hard, dry seed that can be harvested and eaten by humans or animals. Furthermore, grains are divided into cereals and legumes depending on the type of plant that is producing the seed.
  • Cereal: This is any plant belonging to the grass family that is grown to produce grain. Some examples are rice and corn.

In summary, popcorn is classified as a seed that belongs to the cereal division of grains. On the other hand, nuts are dry fruits with hard shells. Some examples of nuts are hazelnuts, almonds and chestnuts.

Nut Allergy vs. Peanut Allergy

nuts allergy

Interestingly, peanuts are an exception to these rules of the game. Why? This is because while the name ‘peanuts’ contains the suffix –nuts, peanuts are not actually nuts but rather they are legumes!

Consequently, it is necessary to differentiate whether you have a tree nut allergy or a peanut allergy. For instance, if you have a tree nut allergy, then you need to avoid tree nuts such as almonds, cashew nuts, and macadamia nuts. On the other hand, if you have a peanut allergy, then you should avoid peanuts, peanut butter, and any other peanut-derived food.

According to the Australasian Society Of Clinical Immunology And Allergy, someone with a peanut allergy will not automatically be allergic to tree nuts. Therefore, it is important for you to visit your doctor so that they can run some tests and find out for sure which type of nut allergy you have.

How Will I Know if Popcorn Is Contaminated With Nuts?

If you are allergic to nuts, you need to be extra careful to make sure that you don’t accidentally ingest any type of food contaminated with nuts. Before you happily munch on that big bag of popcorn, here are some quick steps to help you determine whether the batch is nut-free:

1. Ask For Clarification

If you are at a potluck and someone brings in a batch of Cracker Jack, then it would be pretty obvious that you need to stay away from that bowl.

However, sometimes the flavorings and food colors included in some popcorn recipes make it difficult to recognize at a glance whether it contains nuts or not. In such cases, you should ask for clarification from the shop attendant or the chef about whether the popcorn contains nuts.

2. Read The Label

Secondly, the next step is to read the label and look out for some hidden names that are used for peanuts and tree nuts. Fortunately, the Food Allergy Resource and Education website provides a list of some common names that you should look out for in food packaging. These include:

  • Beer nuts
  • Ground nuts
  • Monkey nuts
  • Lupin (or lupine)
  • Gianduja (a chocolate-nut mixture)
  • Arachis oil (synonym for peanut oil)
  • Mandelonas (peanuts soaked in almond flavoring)

In addition, the US Food Labeling Act also demands that any processed food which contains peanuts or tree nuts needs to be clearly labeled with an allergen warning. Hence, you can also look out for this allergen warning on the packaging, which would read: ‘CONTAINS TREE NUTS/PEANUTS.’

3. Research On The Facility

At times, popcorn might have been manufactured in a factory that also produces peanut snacks. In essence, this increases the risk of cross-contamination. Luckily, one of the best ways to find out whether nuts are in the facility is by performing a quick Google search.

You simply need to enter the popcorn brand name followed by the phrase ‘allergen facility information.’ This will usually direct you to a website that contains details about the allergens present in the facility where the popcorn was produced.

What Type of Popcorn Can I Eat if I Have a Nut Allergy?

Fortunately, any flavored popcorn that does not contain traces of nuts is quite safe for people with nut allergies. Some examples of allergen-free seasonings and flavors that you can add to popcorn include:

  • Salt
  • Butter
  • Raisins
  • Pretzels
  • Dried fruits
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Pumpkin seeds

What Will Happen if I Accidentally Eat Popcorn With Peanuts?

When it comes to food allergies, different people can respond in different ways. For example, one person might have a severe reaction to mere traces of nuts while someone else will have a very mild response.

If you or your loved ones accidentally eat some popcorn with peanuts and then start to develop symptoms such as wheezing, running nose and tightening of the throat, you need to call emergency medical services right away.

Luckily, some people with peanut allergies carry an EpiPen with them. This emergency treatment can be administered as quick first aid in case of a life-threatening allergic reaction.

Are Some People Allergic to Popcorn?

Yes, unfortunately, some people who have an allergy to corn will be allergic to popcorn. Some of the most obvious symptoms of a corn allergy are:

  • Nausea
  • Tingling, itchy mouth
  • Runny nose
  • Hives
  • Sneezing
  • Problems breathing
  • Anaphylaxis

You must seek medical assistance if your symptoms become severe. If you are in any doubt of having a corn allergy, go get tested.

Safety First

If you have a nut allergy, you always need to check and double-check the packaging to make sure that any popcorn you purchase is nut-free. Nevertheless, there is a huge variety of allergen-free seasoning and flavors that you can still use to spice up your favorite and make it absolutely delicious!

Sources

https://farrp.unl.edu/informallbig8
https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/nut-allergy.htmlhttps://www.webmd.com/allergies/child-peanuts-21/slideshow-peanut-free-snacks
https://www.foodallergy.org/living-food-allergies/food-allergy-essentials/common-allergens/peanut
https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/food-allergy/peanut-tree-nut-and-seed-allergy#
https://www.foodallergy.org/living-food-allergies/food-allergy-essentials/common-allergens/peanut#

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