My mom sent me a text earlier today, telling me that Chick-Fil-A uses refined peanut-oil to cook their chicken. I was surprised to see that a main restaurant chain would use peanut oil with so many individuals being allergic to peanuts. I didn't know this, and if I wasn't vegan, I could have easily have consumed a lot of that chicken by now (there is a Chick-Fil-A right on the ASU campus).
Luckily, I do not have anaphylaxis, so it would not have been a life-or-death situation if I had reacted. What does Chick-Fil-A have to say about it? I checked their website, just to verify that they do in fact use peanut-oil. They do. What else? I was surprised to see an entire argument below their initial statement which addresses why refined peanut-oil is basically ok for those with food allergies to consume. They go on to say that because the peanut oil is a "high-temperatuer, heat-processed, fully refined peanut oil (refined, bleached and deodorized)," that the proteins are "stripped out" through this intensive process.
Interesting that they would take such great efforts to convince those with allergies, that it would be perfectly safe to eat. They go on for several more paragraphs, quoting notable references such as the Food and Drug Administration, reassuring their chicken-lovers that it's ok for those with peanut allergies to continue consuming their product.
This didn't seem right; that they would try and persuade people that it's completely ok. From what little business mind I do have, I would think they would be more interested in covering their back--stating that it may not always be completely safe, and that the customers should take caution. Not necessarily the case.
So, I did a quick search of my own on PubMed. The first several articles basically reveal that, yes, highly-refining peanuts to make peanut oil will denature many of the proteins. That, I knew. (Remember, in an allergic reaction, the body is reacting to those proteins. Remove/kill the proteins, and theoretically you'll be ok). But, in a couple other studies, they concluded that although nearly all of the peanut protein was denatured, not 100% of it was denatured. Thus, a small amount of individuals could still react, especially if they are highly sensitive.
So...what does it all mean? Basically, scientists are still debating about it, and trying to get down to the root of the problem. Based on the 3 top articles that I looked at, it seems that as time goes by, more articles are citing that although refining will denature proteins, it's never 100% guaranteed that ALL proteins will be de-natured. Which makes complete sense. It depend on how manufacturers are running their refining plants. Maybe some didn't get mixed well, or it was un-evenly "heated," etc. Peanut oil is widely used, so I would imagine it is processed in large processing plants. That leaves more room for error. Newer articles are emphasizing to use caution--because there are some "sensitive" individual who may still react.
Personally, I would never risk the life of my child if they had anaphylaxis or any severe allergy to peanuts. It's almost a gamble to allow them to consume these refined oils (if allergic). Although the odds are in your favor, I wouldn't want my child to be the odd one out.
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