Walnut Cutting boards - nut allergy trigger?


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I made my friends a walnut/maple end grain cutting board last year. Their son has a nut allergy.

Does anyone know if this could cause issues? Or is it a non-issue? I am wondering whether to ask for the board back and making them one out of different woods. Thoughts?

Thanks.

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I've read that walnut cutting boards can trigger a nut allergy, and I've repeated that several times here and elsewhere. I do not have any direct experience either way.

I did a Google search and didn't find any accounts of allergic reactions. Plenty of people saying "it's safe", and plenty of people saying, "it might not be safe." Nothing from the FDA or "science". But, I stopped after looking at the first dozen or so hits.

No one with an allergy to walnuts wants to use a walnut cutting board, "to see what happens", so my guess is you have a lot people avoiding walnut cutting boards just to be safe, and no one knows for sure.

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I've never believed that someone with a nut allergy could have a reaction from a cutting board made with walnut. The only cautions that can be found come from woodworkers. Typically not scientific researchers. So I wrote to the Rutgers University extension and asked then if there has been any research on juglone in walnut wood. Here is his response:

Rick,

NJAES has not done any research on this topic, so I have no first-hand information.

Walnut wood and several other woods have small amounts of juglone, but much lower amounts than other plant parts, for example nuts, bark, and roots. The potential for toxicity should be minimal in cutting boards, which are dried. Juglone is not very soluble in water, so I would not expect it to come out of cutting boards and into food very easily. I would think that the concern for toxicity from this source would be minimal, but again, we have no direct research and I am not aware of any specifically on this topic. However, if you are cutting the wood and there is sawdust, then protection from the sawdust is in order.

Best wishes,

Brad Hillman

Bradley I. Hillman, Ph.D.

Director of Research

New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station;

Professor, Plant Biology and Pathology

Rutgers University

New Brunswick, NJ 08901

Office: 104 Martin Hall

88 Lipman Drive

848-932-3777

Lab: 339 Foran Hall

59 Dudley Road

932-9375 X 333

Mobile: 609-933-9049

Fax: 866-365-7736

e-mail: hillman@aesop.rutgers.edu

e-mail2: dad@tomhillman.net

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Thanks, Rick!

I should mention that the rumors I've heard have always talked about people with allergies to nuts, and didn't mention juglone. I've heard more reliable reports of people with nut allergies having reactions from eating food that was prepared on a cutting board that had also been used to chop nuts. I suspect that people heard about that and got the idea that cutting boards are dangerous to people with nut allergies. And once the idea is out there, no one wants to try it to see what will happen.

The Wikipedia page on tree nut allergies doesn't say anything about wood, but it does talk about "cross contamination" in kitchens where nuts are used as ingredients.

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Thanks, Rick!

I should mention that the rumors I've heard have always talked about people with allergies to nuts, and didn't mention juglone. I've heard more reliable reports of people with nut allergies having reactions from eating food that was prepared on a cutting board that had also been used to chop nuts. I suspect that people heard about that and got the idea that cutting boards are dangerous to people with nut allergies. And once the idea is out there, no one wants to try it to see what will happen.

The Wikipedia page on tree nut allergies doesn't say anything about wood, but it does talk about "cross contamination" in kitchens where nuts are used as ingredients.

I can easily buy the cross-contamination from chopping nuts and then other food before washing. But, the wood? Nope.

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The first question I have is what type of nut allergy does this person have? If they have a peanut allergy, which would be classified as a legume nut, then you have no worries. If they have a tree nut allergy, then ears start to perk, but only temporarily. When people have a nut allergy, whether a legume or tree nut, the mast cells within the body (defense cells) react certain ways to either the oil within the nut or the protein than binds the fibers of the nut together causing a cascade of anti-histamines and other amino acids to be released into the body to counteract what the mast sell detected to be invading the body. Neither the nut oil nor the binding protein is found within the fibers of the wood of the tree producing the nut. Also, the board is sealed/finished, so unless the kid is teething and happens to pick up the board and gnaw on it, the wood fibers would not be ingested. I think you would have been fine not trading it out, but as we say in the medical profession, error on the side of caution, and don’t take a chance.

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  • 4 months later...

I don't know about allergies from a cutting board, but a friend of mine with a severe walnut allergy had a bad skin reaction to some wood putty that turned out to have been made using walnut sawdust and walnut oil. It wasn't life threatening or anything, but it caused a mild case of hives.

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  • 3 months later...

very interesting topic.

 

For what ever it is worth i have a deathly allergic reaction to the consumption of raw walnuts.  Ive been to the ER in full cant breath swollen like a balloon mode, theres a word for it anti something or other shock i believe.  however with that being said when i met with the allergist specialist after my trip to the ER he told me and made it very clear that each and every persons allergies are different.  My own personal experiences with working with walnut (handling it, cutting it, etc) on a very very recent project were that it had no effect on me.  i know thats not the same as a cutting board in which case i would assume your worst case scenario would probobaly bee small small slivers created by repeated use of the knife on the board which could then be ingested but i would think (heck ill even go so far as to say i know) that i inhaled and ingested more walnut dust in this last project then i pry shoul;d have (in the basment, no dust collection, and on the table saw and chops saw), but again no allergic reaction.  so id have to restate what the allergist told me, its different for everyone so what might not have bothered me could very well bother someone else but i however would have to lean twords your probobaly safe.  I was however worried enough about having a possible reaction to make sure my shop partner who was with me at the time knew i had an allergy, and i instructed him what to do if i had an issue and i made sure i knew right where my epi pen was.  while id say your saf,  food allergies are nothing to mess with especially if the person has a very severe reaction to what ever the substance he/she is allergic to.  I cant speak of the oils or stains as i havnt used them, i would how ever be more leary of that in my personal opinion.  the enzyme(s) in the 'fruit' that im allergic to may or may not be present in the tree hence the reason for no reaction, the oil however i believe is made from the fruit which i know causes me a reaction. im no botonist but that makes sense to me in my mind.  i do by and large try and avoid anything foodwise that has walnuts, or walnut extract in it just to be on the safeside.  i am by no means an expert but when this allergy did surface in my mid thirties after years of eating walnuts i did do a little research and from what i was lead to believe its a protien enzyme in the walnut (in the nut itself) that your body cant break down and there for attacks it.  as an allergy suferer i would have no qualms of eating food prepared off a well maintained walnut cutting board or even eating say a salad out of a walnut bowl for that matter.   I may have lost the ability to eat walnuts, which were on of my favorites, but i refuse to not use walnut or work with walnut untill i have a reason to IE a reaction of some sorts because its pry imho one of the prettiest woods out there.

 

just my 2 cents for anyone who cares to hear it from someone who sufferes with a severe walnut allergy.

 

 

 

Nyles

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", theres a word for it anti something or other shock i believe.  "

 

It's anaphylactic shock, and if your reactions are that severe I have a discussion with my primary care physician about the value of keeping an epi-pen in close proximity.

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Byrdie,  I have to apologize.  I know the name of it, I was just to lazy to google it to spell it correctly.  I mentioned above the readiness of my epi-pen when I was unsure what my reaction to the walnut sawdust may have been.  Anyone with allergies I am sure knows the benefits of keeping an epi-pen handy.  Infact we have several, one in the car, one in my hunting pack, and one we keep in the house.  My biggest gripe with the epi-pens are the fact they seem to expire so quickly.  With no medical insurance its a constant battle to keep new ones around every time one expires but we do keep several on hand and most of my friends and immediate family have been shown how to use them just in case.  Thanks for clarifying though, I see now where I sort of did not word that part as well as I could have.

 

 

 

Nyles

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No need to apologize!  I once had a client with a severe bee sting allergy so I'm familiar with the symptoms and best practices.  Some old medical training just popped to the surface. lol.  Glad you're aware.

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I happen to be allergic to pickles, although my anaphylactic days appear to be behind me.  As this relates to the walnut question, I have to have the places I order from change gloves at the least, and one guy used to remove the cutting boards and wash them and the counter down before making my sandwich.  (When other customers found out why he was delaying an already long line, they stopped complaining... but several jokingly "got back at me" by waggling their pickles under my nose... which triggered my allergy.)

 

I'd say it's more of the transfer issue.  My concern would be over foods with a higher oil or nut-allergy content that might "reawaken" the dormant triggering buggers.  However, once a finish has been applied, I'd think that allergic reactions would be of a lower frequency.

 

But this is definitely an interesting topic.  Particularly as people can develop and lose allergies as they age.  For example, I was exposed to pickles constantly when I worked fast food; it was only fifteen years later that I cannot be around them.  Bravo for taking their family safety into mind, and being proactive about it!  I'm sure that others will appreciate that you care!

 

(And if you have any other cutting board issues, feel free to forward the board in question to me for "disposal."  I'm sure I can find a couple dozen willing to pay to fight over them... er.... test them thoroughly.)

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  • 4 years later...

A few years after the fact but as a woodworker with a tree nut allergy I can tell you that I have reactions every time I've ever worked with Walnut or Pecan. They have come while sanding the wood not just handling it and none have been severe. I avoid them now however just to be safe - the reactions are no fun.

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That would be more likely due to dust particles created by working the wood, rather than direct contact with the wood.  But if you are reacting to it while working it, don't use it!  :)

 

On 7/28/2012 at 11:59 AM, Rick LoDico said:

Walnut wood and several other woods have small amounts of juglone, but much lower amounts than other plant parts, for example nuts, bark, and roots. The potential for toxicity should be minimal in cutting boards, which are dried. Juglone is not very soluble in water, so I would not expect it to come out of cutting boards and into food very easily. I would think that the concern for toxicity from this source would be minimal, but again, we have no direct research and I am not aware of any specifically on this topic. However, if you are cutting the wood and there is sawdust, then protection from the sawdust is in order.

The doc mentions that juglone is not very water soluble, but I question if it is oil soluble?  Most cutting boards have a wax or oil based finish on them, and if the oil is lifting the chemical to the surface, that may just cause problems.   But at the very least, I will avoid using walnut in cutting boards when possible. 

Nice necro.  Good thread. 

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