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Peanut and Tree Nut Aware Lunches and Snacks

Why was I asked to pack peanut/tree nut-safe lunches and snacks?

  • Most schools have a nut aware policy which means foods containing peanuts and/or tree nuts are not to be taken to school as there are children who have a life-threatening peanut and/or tree-nut allergy.
  • Allergic reactions to peanuts and tree nuts can be fatal. Even very small amounts of peanut and/or tree nuts or residue can cause a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).
  • Tree nuts include almonds, Brazil Nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts (pignolias), pistachio nuts, and walnuts. Other names for tree nuts are listed below.
  • Peanuts are part of the legume family and are not considered a tree nut. Other names for peanuts are listed on the next page

How can I tell if a food has peanuts or tree nuts in it?

  • Read food labels carefully. Read the entire ingredient list every time you shop. Even if a product looks the same it is possible the ingredients or labelling have changed.
  • In Canada, food products that contain peanuts or tree nuts must list these items in the ingredient list and/or in a ‘contains’ statement. For example, a product that has peanuts in it would include the word “peanut” in the ingredient list, or in a statement like “Contains peanuts”, or both.

  • Precautionary statements like “free from” or “may contain” claims are examples of voluntary label statements. These statements do not replace the need to read the ingredients list.
  • Imported products may have different labeling requirements than Canada. Always read the label and ingredient list carefully if choosing these products.
  • If a product does not contain an ingredients list, contact the manufacturer for details or consider not sending the product to school.

Other names for tree nuts (Note: This is not a complete list)

  • Anacardium nuts
  • Pignons Filberts
  • Queensland nuts
  • Nut meats

Other names for peanuts (Note: This is not a complete list)

  • Arachis
  • Kernels
  • Beer nuts
  • Mandelonas, Nu-NutsTM
  • Goober nuts
  • Nut meats
  • Ground nuts
  • Valencias

Examples of foods that contain or may contain peanuts and/or tree nuts (Note: this is not a complete list).

  • Canned fish, in oil
  • Gravies
  • Cookies, muffins, granola bars, etc.,
  • Hydrolyzed plant protein
  • Cereals
  • Icing, glazes
  • Chili con carne
  • Ice cream/ frozen desserts
  • Chinese food, curries, pad Thai, satays
  • Marzipan (almond paste)
  • Chocolate bars
  • Nougat
  • Crackers
  • Pesto
  • Dehydrated soup mixes
  • Potato chips, popcorn, trail mix
  • Dried fruit
  • Salad dressing
  • Fried foods
  • Tree nut oils
  • Granola, cereal, breakfast bars
  • Vegetarian meat substitutes

Food allergens may be present in products you don’t expect.
Always read the ingredients list carefully.

How to prepare peanut/tree nut-safe lunches and snacks

  • Know your school board’s/ school’s food allergy policy. In some school boards peanut butter substitutes are also not permitted.
  • Avoid cross-contamination. Cross-contamination happens when small amounts of a food allergen (e.g.: peanut protein) gets into another food accidentally, or when it is present in saliva, on a surface or on an object. For example, if a knife used to spread peanut butter is then used in a jar of jam, the jam now contains traces of peanut protein. This may be enough to cause an allergic reaction for a child with a severe food allergy.
  • Wash hands with soap and water prior to preparing food.
  • Ensure cutting boards, utensils, counter tops and containers are cleaned and sanitized before preparing lunches/snacks.
  • Use Canada’s food guide ( to plan lunches and snacks. See our “Packing School Lunches” factsheet for more ideas.

* Source: Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Note: This list is not complete and may change.

Prefer to speak to a Registered Dietitian? Call Telehealth Ontario toll free at 1-866-797-0000.

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