Smelling foods usually does not result in allergic reactions, even when the odor of the food is strong, such as with peanut butter. There is no peanut protein released into the air when peanut butter is at room temperature – and it is the peanut proteins, not the peanut aroma, that can trigger allergic reactions. There have been reports of people with shellfish allergy experiencing allergic reactions to steam coming from shellfish being cooked, which does contain shellfish protein.
Cleaning of tabletop surfaces and washing hands should prevent food allergens from coming into contact with people who might be allergic. Studies on cleaning of peanut butter showed that soap and typical household cleaners did a good job of removing peanut protein from hands and table surfaces. Alcohol-based cleaners and dishwashing liquid were not effective at removing peanut protein from hands or table surfaces.
Learn more about allergic reactions to food odors.
Young MC, Munoz-Furlong A, Sicherer SH. Management of Food Allergies in Schools: A Perspective for Allergists. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009; 124:175-82.
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