Food Shopping Surprise: Peanuts & Veggies Together?!

After a series of changed plans, we finally ended up enjoying Thanksgiving in Southern California with family that had gathered from all over the world (truly a first and a very special time).  One of my favorite things to do is to enjoy a visit to the Torrance Farmer’s Market and bring home my culinary treasures.  As I was choosing fresh basil, I realized there were raw peanuts being cross contaminated with the vegetables via the stall employee’s hands!  A true food allergy nightmare!

Peanuts for sale at Farmers Market

Thankfully, I saw the containers of peanuts, the employee sorting the peanuts and then immediately re-stacking the broccoli and other produce.  I called my husband over and said we can’t buy the items we had just chosen, they could be contaminated with the dust from the peanuts.  We both sat rather dumbfounded for a few minutes while we watched her sort peanuts and touch all sorts of produce.

woman sorting peanuts at farmer's market

Ironically, a woman walking by heard me telling my husband about the touching of peanuts and vegetables.  She stopped and tossed in her two cents as well about the booth and then huffed off.  I wasn’t sure if she was annoyed with the peanut issue or people just touching the produce though?!?!  Nevertheless, this kind of cross contact situation became a real issue for us, not just here at the farmer’s market, but especially during the holidays when grocery stores and markets are bursting with nuts for holiday baking.  Shopping with food allergies during the Holidays truly requires a pause and a plan.

farmers market

Actually, a friend of mine has a similar situation in a grocery store with a manager touching and filling up a bin with peanuts and then moving on to touch other products in the store.  The employee was less than thrilled with my friend and thankfully, upper management got involved and helped with the situation.

photo courtesy of grapeandgrainsync.comAddressing bins of open nuts has  truly brought to mind that our food allergy community might consider educating our local grocery stores, markets and farmer’s market of this cross contamination risk. I have written a letter that I am sending out to my local grocery stores in hopes of raising awareness of stocking nuts and major allergen products and then touching other food items.

You are welcome to down load My Dear Grocery Manager letter and adapt it for your own personal purposes, using your stories, names, etc..  My lesson learned is that produce is simply not immune from food allergy cross contact issues as well.  Although, this farmer’s market trip was not a complete bust,  as I found other veggie only vendors and a farmer who only grew dates.   I am happy to report that I enjoyed the drive home munching on farm fresh dates!

Farm Fresh Organic Dates

Again, please consider sharing nut, produce and other food stuff food allergy cross contact information with grocers or farmers who sell nuts in bins with other non-nut items.  These kind of cross contact issues can pose a real problem for peanut or tree nut allergic customers.

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  1. says

    I 100% agree with you! Our local stores sell any nuts already packaged, so they don’t have the cross contamination risk, but I’ve been in plenty of stores (though the peanuts/tree nuts aren’t right next to the produce) where there is obviously a risk of cross contamination. I’ve always wondered why they do that especially in this day and age. I am going to share this post with others and help get the word out that they can write a letter, and here’s an example. Thanks for posting this!

    • says

      Thanks Julie, I think sharing this concept/post is important, especially now that there are bins of pine nuts, walnuts and peanuts everywhere! I buzzed into my local grocery store for a head of organic cabbage and had to glide past a bin of pistachios and pine nuts to hit the organic section. Again, no kids with me by design!

      • says

        You’re welcome!

        I have a friend whose daughter is anaphylactic to peanuts. I can’t imagine how she handles this time of year! I also have a cousin (by marriage) who has children who are allergic to milk – if it gets on their SKIN they can go anaphylactic (and that’s not the only allergies to food they have). These are the people I keep in mind when I see posts like this and part of the reason I am so passionate about sharing and not shy about talking to grocers, etc. Scary the things some have to face!

  2. says

    We had a similar situation at our local farmer’s market this fall; they were selling hot cider, one of the few things my kids can have at the market other than fruit; she said they were heating it and to come back. But when I returned, to my shock I saw she was also ladling up little cupfuls of boiled peanuts right next to the vat of cider. When I gently asked if there were any chance for cross contamination to occur/did she make sure not to use the same ladle, she thought it was a ridiculous question and was NOT nice about it. $3 a cup later (!!!) combined with her bad attitude, and I have crossed this vendor off my list for the future.

    • says

      Oh Suzie, I’m glad everything turned out okay. I truly think that our local farmers, who I love dearly, probably don’t even have food allergies on their radar. What frustrates me is when people have attitudes. I love it when people say to me, “I would love your business, but I want your children safe!” Then I refer everyone who can eat their products to their business!

      Glad your kids have a savvy Mom keeping them safe.

  3. Yael Kozar says

    I had the Torrance Whole Foods remove the netted peanuts away from the door a few months ago that was blowing peanut dust all over the produce. The manager freaked and agreed this was a terrible idea and imed. bagged them up, moved them and contacted the vendor. I told her I had to take a pic and post in on my FB support group page “CA, Allergy Support & Anaphylaxis Prevention” but would post her disclaimer that the store snapped into action to protect their customers.

    Also this same Torrance Farmers market vendor is up here in Palos Verdes and I will be showing him your post-or have you? I can not even go there any more. ;( unless it’s to buy flowers.

    • says

      Hi Yael, I have not contacted the Torrance Farmer’s market with the photo. That’s a great idea though! I wish I could remember the name of the vendor, I’ll ask my sister in-law to check it out for me so I can contact them. Good idea. GREAT job on the Torrence Whole Foods. I am very pleased to hear about their great response. You are a blessing to our food allergy community!

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