To understand how frequently peanut exposure could be occurring for people who maintain peanut-free diets, we’ve been testing food for peanut at San Francisco establishments and packaged foods. Unlike gluten, there is no standard regulated by the FDA for what constitutes “peanut-free.” Our team aims to develop a product that can detect below 20 parts per million (ppm). Doing this sort of validation work about the levels of peanut present in food not spiked in the lab is incredibly helpful to foster our understanding what may be seen in the world where people are actually using Nima.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing three rounds of testing food for peanut, and sharing some of our experiences along the way.

testing food for peanut: Photo of Donuts

First up, we tested peanut-free baked goods from a variety of independent bakeries in San Francisco. Based on interviews and survey research, we know that baked goods are one of the top items, if not the top item, that people who avoid peanuts are concerned about eating. Your feedback has shown that not all bakeries are created equal. Some of you lament over having your kid eat a cupcake at a classroom party, some of you tell us you will never order dessert in a restaurant, while others only will eat foods they have made in their own home. Baked goods can be rife with cross-contact – from peanut butter cookies to peanut flour used to add body to a cookie, or tree nuts contaminated with peanut that make their way into other baked goods.

As a reminder, Nima will provide a binary result – either a smile, if peanut is under the level of detection or a “peanut found” if any peanut is detected. To assist in our research, each of these items was collected and then sent out to a lab for quantified results, so we could understand the level of peanut present. Samples were split so that a portion remained at Nima HQ for future testing.

Each item for our testing was ordered and purchased in person. These were ordered specifically for someone who had to avoid peanut due to a peanut allergy and in some cases the bakeries were also told that food items would be tested for the presence of peanut. In all cases, while people were aware, no special “peanut-free” utensils were used. Many of these bakeries indicated that they had no peanuts or peanut flour present in their facilities due to their audience and the number of requests they had had for peanut-free items. We’ve included all of our notes on the order and the result for each item.

Please note that each test represents a single point in time. We took all precautions to avoid further contamination, with items immediately placed in separate plastic bags during the collection process. Subsequent tests may yield different results as every time you test an item circumstances may change.

Testing Food for Peanut: Bakeries in San Francisco

1. Thorough Bread & Pastry

Bakery said there were no peanuts in their bakery, but the dough comes from the “school they are associated with” and they can’t guarantee there aren’t peanuts at that facility. Did not use dedicated peanut-free utensil.

Lemon Poppy Seed Scone: <2.5ppm peanut

2. Tartine

We bought a slice of Devil’s food cake, and they said there were no peanuts in anything they are currently serving. Used tongs and a knife to slice cake, but not dedicated peanut-free.

Devil’s Food Cake: <2.5ppm peanut

3. Wholesome Bakery

Staff said nothing was made with peanuts but everything was made off-site and can’t guarantee that there weren’t peanuts at the bakery. Used tongs, but not special ones to serve and bag.

Apple Crisp Cake: <2.5ppm peanut

4. Mariposa Bakery

Note: Mariposa is a dedicated gluten-free facility. In this case, this was purchased without a conversation as it was labeled “nut free” and was pre-packed in a cold case.

Lemon Cake: <2.5ppm peanut

5. Craftsman & Wolves

We bought a chocolate scone. They said nothing in the bakery has peanuts in it. Used tongs, but not special ones.

Chocolate Croissant: <2.5ppm peanut

6. Arizemendi

We purchased the brioche knot. They said nothing they bake has peanuts, but they would be curious about the results of the test. Used hands to serve and bag.

Brioche Knot: <2.5ppm peanut

7. Noe Valley Bakery

We bought a breakfast pastry, there were items that had peanuts as toppings in the adjoining case, but none in the case where the pastry was displayed. Used gloved hands to serve and bag.

Morning Bun: <2.5ppm peanut

8. Mr. Holmes’ Bakehouse

We bought one of the two donut offerings that did not include peanut. The third offering was a peanut butter donut with peanuts as a topping. All were stored in the same case. When we told the woman who was taking our order that we would be testing the product and that it needed to be peanut-free, she selected the donut furthest from the peanut donuts. She also used gloved hands to serve and bag.

Donut: <2.5ppm peanut

9. Neighbor Bakehouse

We bought the guava and cheese pastry, one of their specialties. They said nothing had peanuts. Did not use special tongs.

Guava and cheese pastry: <2.5ppm peanut

10. Dianda’s Pastry Co

We asked the staff what would be peanut-free and they suggested these two options. Both cookies were packed in the same box.

Chocolate chip cookie: <2.5ppm peanut

Cookie with sprinkles: <2.5ppm peanut

It’s great to see that all of these items tested peanut-free.

Learn more about the Nima Peanut Sensor (coming 2018).

testing food for peanut