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*House of Commons Health Committee report, "The Provision of Allergy Services", November 2004.
**Time trends in the prevalence of peanut allergy: three cohorts of children born from the same geographical location in the UK. Allergy, Volume 65, Number 1, January 2010, pp 103-108 (6). Venter C, Hasan Arshad S, Grundy J, Pereira B, Bernie Clayton C, Voigt K, Higgins B, Dean T.
***Randomised, double blind, crossover challenge study of allergenicity of peanut oils in subjects allergic to peanuts. BMJ 1997 Apr 12;314(7087):1084-8. Hourihane JO; Bedwani SJ; Dean TP; Warner JO.)
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Peanut allergy has gained prominence in the media for two good reasons: It is exceptionally common among children and severe reactions are frequently reported.
According to a House of Commons report in 2004, around 250,000 children across the UK are allergic to peanuts*. Research has shown that the prevalence among children has more than doubled since the early 1990s, although a possible levelling out was noted by 2010**.
A proportion of people with peanut allergy are also allergic to tree nuts such as cashews, walnuts and Brazils. A smaller proportion are allergic to other legumes, such as green peas, chick peas and lentils.
Researchers in Southampton demonstrated in 1997 that refined peanut oil can be tolerated by the vast majority of people with peanut allergy because the allergenic proteins are no longer present in sufficient quantity to cause problems***.
However, the European Commission has ruled that the issue is not yet clear-cut and therefore peanut oil – whether refined or unrefined – must always be declared on the labels of pre-packed food.