Much to the satisfaction of millions, Chick-fil-A has used refined peanut oil for decades. According to the Chick-fil-A website, they use “100% refined peanut oil.” They go on to state that “refined soybean and peanut oil are not considered major food allergens.” In fact, refined peanut oil provides a perfect medium for creating crunchy foods at high heat without off flavors. Many other restaurants also choose refined (also called highly refined) peanut oil as their preferred oil for frying because of these qualities.
For individuals with food allergies, eating out can be a source of anxiety. It makes sense that trusting someone else to prepare safe food can be worrisome, since it is impossible to be guaranteed that food is safe or that the individual preparing it has a good understanding of food allergy safety. Still, dining out is an important part of normal experiences for everyone. Those with a peanut allergy may wonder how cooking with peanut oil impacts safety.
Unrefined vs. Refined Peanut Oil
First, it’s important to know that there are different types of peanut oil. Gourmet peanut oil, also called unrefined, does contain the protein that may cause allergic reactions and therefore should not be used in cooking for someone with a peanut allergy. Unrefined peanut oil can be easily recognized because it has a strong peanut flavor and maintains the characteristic aroma of peanuts. It is most often used as a finishing oil, like drizzling over roasted vegetables, soups or proteins, but may also be used in sauces and dressings. It does not have the same high smoke-point as refined peanut oil, so it is not meant to be used in high-heat cooking such as frying.
On the other hand, refined peanut oil has been processed in such a way as to remove the proteins that cause reactions. In fact, the FDA specifically exempts refined oils (including peanut) from the Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act – which means highly refined peanut oil does not have to be labeled as an allergen. This type of peanut oil has a very high smoke-point and is perfect for frying and high-heat cooking. Refined peanut oil is perfect for foodservice and results in crunchy and delicious fried foods.
Communicate with the Restaurant and Consult with Your Doctor
Anyone with a food allergy should always notify Chick-fil-A or any other restaurant of their allergy when dining out. Additionally, restaurant menus and ingredients are always subject to change, so it’s best to consult the restaurant directly about the use of allergens. Here are some additional tips for dining out with a food allergy.
Finally, those with peanut allergies should discuss their specific condition with his or her physician. However, understanding the facts can help those with peanut allergies feel better about their choice to dine at restaurants like Chick-fil-A.