Q:

8/22/2013
A peanut/tree nut child was eating a Cookies and Cream Hershey's Kiss candy before her mother read the label. She noticed it contained "Shea" but did not say Shea nut. She will be calling the company to see what they say but do you have any information that I can pass on to this mother about what this ingredient may be and if it has the potential to cause a reaction. Thank you for your time.

A:

Thank you for your inquiry.

Shea nut is considered by the FDA a true nut, and the FDA requires listing of Shea nut or Shea butter as an ingredient. Shea nut is a member of the Sapotaceae family and appears to be distantly related to Brazil nut. However, there are no reports to my knowledge of any allergic reactions to Shea nut or Shea butter in spite of its common use, and your patient’s mother will find a news release (link copied below) very reassuring in that Shea butter seems to be no threat to children allergic to nuts or peanuts. The reference from which this news release was taken is also copied below for your convenience.

In summary, although Shea is a nut, and butter is derived from the nut, allergic reactions to either must be extremely rare or, to this date, nonexistent, and Shea appears to be safe, at least according to all of the published data that we could find for children allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. Of course this can in no way guarantee that such reaction could not occur, but is very reassuring in this regard.

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

Shea butter contains no IgE-binding soluble proteins
J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2011 Mar;127(3):680-2. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2010.10.022. Epub 2010 Dec 13.
Chawla KK, Bencharitiwong R, Ayuso R, Grishina G, Nowak-Wêgrzyn A.

Shea Nuts Appear Safe in Allergy Study

Sincerely,
Phil Lieberman, M.D.

AAAAI - American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology