Q:

5/7/2014
Are walnut cutting boards generally safe for all patients with walnut allergy or there could be a risk in using them to prepare their food?

A:

Thank you for your inquiry.

The question you posed has been dealt with many times on lay websites but to my knowledge, and according to a literature search, there are no scientific studies addressing the issue of potential crossreactivity between the allergens found in walnut wood and the major allergens (juglones) of walnuts. It is known, however, that juglone is contained in walnut wood. Nonetheless, it is not very soluble in water, and since the cutting board has been dried, I would think that there would be little chance of a reaction to a walnut wood cutting board in a patient with walnut allergy.

Nonetheless, the lack of any study in this regard makes it impossible to give you 100% assurance of this. We do know, for example, that allergic respiratory tract reactions can occur to walnut (1-3). However, it is not known whether these reactions are IgE mediated as ar anaphylactic reactions to walnuts, and the underlying mechanism behind these respiratory reactions has not been clearly elucidated.

We also know that contact dermatitis can occur to walnuts, and the allergens probably are juglones, but this, too, has not been clarified completely.

In summary, the best we can say is that one cannot rule out the possibility of a reaction to walnut wood in a person highly sensitive to walnuts, but my opinion is that the risk of such a reaction would be very low.

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

References:
1. Contact Dermatitis. Volume 44, Issue 4, pages 213–217, April 2001.

2. Abe J. Sosman, M.D., Donald P. Schlueter, M.D., Jordan N. Fink, M.D., and Joseph J. Barboriak, Ph.D. Hypersensitivity to Wood Dust. N Engl J Med 1969; 281:977-980October 30, 1969DOI: 10.1056/NEJM196910302811802.

3. Clinical & Experimental Allergy, Volume 13, Issue 4, pages 389–394, July 1983.

Sincerely,
Phil Lieberman, M.D.

AAAAI - American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology