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Does hazelnut flavored coffee pose an allergy concern?

Is it just me or does there seem to be an epidemic of nut allergies these days? A five year study conducted at Mount Sinai School of Medicine (New York, NY) reports the incidence of nut allergies almost doubled from 1997 to 2002. About 1% of the population or almost 3 million people in the U.S. are allergic to nuts, experiencing allergic reactions ranging from very mild to life-threatening. Considering all the media attention detailing startling trends of nut free schools to babies having reactions to mother's milk after consuming peanuts, understandably there is an element of widespread public concern.

The number one flavor category within flavored coffee is based on the nut flavor profile. The number two selling coffee flavor is hazelnut. The question becomes, "Does flavored coffee pose a health risk to nut allergy sufferers?" This question comes up monthly, and has for the past 20 years. Most all coffee flavors utilize natural and artificial pure aroma chemicals to derive the flavor characteristics. These pure aroma chemicals are not based on nut extracts and do not contain the allergens found in nuts. Allergy concerns with flavors are more likely to occur with all-natural and/or organic flavors, if extractives from the named source material (i.e. hazelnuts) are used in the formulation thus increasing the opportunity for allergic response. With that point in mind, the coffee industry may be fortunate that less than 1% of flavored coffee sold uses these types of flavors.

The beauty of using flavors formulated with no allergens is that you won't need to hang a warning sign on the coffee pot the next time you brew hazelnut.

Jeff Nichols is currently the vice president of the coffee division for Flavor & Fragrance Specialties.
Top Selling Flavors

Vanilla 27%
Hazenut 28%
All Other Flavors 45%

Note: Table made from pie chart.
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Title Annotation:Flavor of the Month
Comment:Does hazelnut flavored coffee pose an allergy concern?(Flavor of the Month)
Author:Nichols, Jeff
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jun 1, 2009
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