Health: Refinement is the key for food allergy sufferers

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Refined peanut oil appears to be safe for people who risk death from eating peanuts, new research claims today. Crude, or unrefined peanut oil, on the other hand, might be dangerous, scientists found.

A team of researchers led by Dr Jonathan Hourihane, from Southampton General Hospital, tested reactions of people with a proven allergy to peanuts to two kinds of peanut oil. They found that 10 per cent of those studied reacted to unrefined oil, but none reacted to refined oil.

The doctors said, in an article in the British Medical Journal, that it was vital for restaurant and catering staff to be more aware of food allergy. They also called for a discontinuation of the confusing term groundnut for peanut oil, and clear labelling to distinguish between refined and crude oils.

David Reading, director of the Anaphylaxis Campaign, which aims to increase public awareness about life-threatening allergies, said: "Sometimes people with peanut allergy describe mealtimes as like playing Russian roulette - it can be that frightening.

"But if the risk posed by peanut oil is very low, as this research suggests, then people will find they can eat with far greater confidence."