Q:

1/21/2013
Do you know if the hazelnut-flavored syrup that is often added to coffee contains any allergenic hazelnut protein? (I had a restaurant owner ask me, and I could not answer his question confidently. I realize you may not know the answer to this, but hopefully some nut allergy expert may know this.) I have never heard of a nut-allergic person having an allergic reaction from hazelnut-flavored syrup, but I am curious.

A:

Thank you for your inquiry.

We have dealt with this issue on the Ask the Expert website previously. I have copied this previous question and our response below. As you can see this response was specific for Starbuck’s hazelnut syrup.

Starbuck’s hazelnut syrup did not contain hazelnut. In order to respond to your inquiry, I also looked at three other brands of hazelnut syrup and none of them contained hazelnut. But, I mention this to illustrate to you that it would be impossible for me to make a generic response to you. What one would have to do is go through the same process that we did for Starbuck’s, looking up the particular brand in question.

Because we have now investigated four brands of hazelnut syrup and because I could not find a case of anaphylaxis to hazelnut syrup, I think it is safe to say that the majority of brands of hazelnut syrup do not contain hazelnut antigen. However, the only way for you to know for sure would be to look up the particular brand of syrup in question.

Thank you again for your inquiry and we hope this response is helpful to you.

Presence of hazelnut allergen in Starbuck's hazelnut syrup
Question posted 10/31/2011:
I have a tree nut allergic patient. He likes to add a liquid hazelnut sweetener to his coffee at Starbucks. Is this safe or not? Thanks!

Answer:
Thank you for your recent inquiry.

I have written Starbucks regarding the contents of their hazelnut syrup. The response is copied for you below.

Based on the contents of the hazelnut syrup there is no risk of a reaction. This does not apply to all hazelnut syrups or oils. Some are made with artificial flavoring and others may contain hazelnut allergen. I am afraid the only way one could tell would be to do as I did on this occasion - contact the manufacturer of the product in question. If the product does contain true hazelnut oil, there may be some risk involved. Unfortunately there is no way to quantitate the risk to my knowledge. If it is synthetic, such as the Starbuck's product, there is no risk involved.

Thank you again for your inquiry and we hope this response is helpful to you.

Response from Starbucks Coffee Company:

Thank you for contacting Starbucks Coffee Company.

The ingredients for our hazelnut syrup is as follows:

Hazelnut Syrup: Sugar, Water, Natural* and Artifical Flavours, Preservative: Potassium Sorbate (E202), Citric Acid (E330)

While we understand that some customers may have a need to know specific ingredient information prior to consuming a product, unfortunately we are unable to provide more in-depth information than what is currently available in the ingredient statement. If there are concerns about this product possibly containing an ingredient derived from a source that you do not wish to consume, we would recommend that product not be consumed.

Customer Relations, Starbucks Coffee Company

Sincerely,
Phil Lieberman, M.D.



AAAAI - American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology