As the series of cumin recalls grew to reach across the United States in the first quarter of 2015, there was growing concern within the food allergy community about how to find out if a spiced-food product is safe for those with with peanut or nut allergies.
Cumin contaminated with peanut (and in some cases, almond) has been found in products including Tex-Mex and South Asian cuisine items, pre-spiced barbecue meats, chili seasonings and other spice blends. While many products have already been recalled, the FDA and USDA acknowledge that more products may yet be added to the list.
Beyond our big chart of recalls, there may be items that you are unsure of. The good news is that doing some research can help you make educated choices about allergy-safe food products and risk reduction.
Several companies post allergen statements on their websites. If these are not available or are unclear, call or email the manufacturer and ask the following:
- Is your product X produced in a facility with [insert your allergen]?
- Could my allergen come in contact with your product X?
- Is this product produced on a dedicated or shared line of equipment?
- What safety measures do you have in place to avoid allergen cross-contact?
- Does staff undergo food allergy training?
Allergic Living put out requests to 10 different spice companies to find out which have safe allergen practices. To date, three companies, none of which are part of the major contaminated cumin recalls, shared information on their allergen policies.
MCormick & Company: “Due to the FDA Consumer Advisory and increased attention surrounding peanut contamination of cumin in the marketplace, we want to assure the public that no McCormick products are involved,” Roger Lawrence, vice president of McCormick‘s global quality assurance, said in a statement. “This includes all ground cumin, cumin seed, and seasonings that contain cumin like Taco Seasoning Mix and Chili Powder.”
According to the statement, McCormick ensures safety of its products by sourcing whole cumin seeds, which they say mitigates the chance for other ingredients, such as nut shells, to be mixed in. Their facilities are also peanut-free to avoid cross-contact and each batch of spices is inspected for “extraneous matter” and treated to a steaming process.
Frontier Co-op: “We require ingredient declarations on all raw materials before they enter our facilities,” explained Ravin Donald, vice president of quality and research and development at organic spice manufacturer Frontier Co-op. “Within the plant, our procedures require full wet washes after allergenic product runs, and our advanced air-handling systems help to minimize dust within the plant environment.”
Spicely Organics: Representatives at Spicely Organics’ customer service explained that they source their ground organic cumin seeds from a supplier that is not named in the cumin recall. As for the products currently on shelves, Spicely notes that their facilities are nut- and gluten-free and their products are safe for those with peanut and tree nut allergies. “We tested our product at a laboratory for peanut allergen,” said the representative. “The result was negative.”
For more information, see the following resources:
- The latest: Inside the Peanut-Tainted Cumin Recalls: What Happened?
- Allergic Living’s Big Chart of Recalled Products
- Peanut-Contaminated Cumin Leads to Massive Allergy Recall
- FDA Recalls, Market Withdrawals and Safety Alerts
- USDA Recalls and Alerts
- In Canada: Canadian Food Inspection Agency (Note: In Canada, there have been no peanut-related recalls in 2015. So far, the second recall series appears specific to the USA)