Barbecue sauce is frequently included in lists of foods that may be hidden sources of peanuts and tree nuts. We decided to survey the manufacturers of the barbecue sauces available at our local supermarket to find out about the use of peanuts, tree nuts and the other top food allergens as barbecue sauce ingredients, and their use at the facilities where the barbecue sauces are made. Only a handful of companies responded. And out of those few, only one makes any barbecue sauce in a facility that is peanut-free and tree nut-free.
The most complete response we received was from Annie's Homegrown & Annie's Naturals. Annie's explained that peanuts, tree nuts and dairy are not ingredients in their barbecue sauces. Annie's also tests their products for food allergens. The barbecue sauce is manufactured at two different facilities; if you check the lot number on their bottles of barbecue sauce and see a letter "W" at the end of the lot number, this indicates the sauce was manufactured at their West Coast facility, which does not use peanuts or tree nuts at all. Annie's barbecue sauce is also gluten-free.
From Kraft: "We understand that allergic consumers are concerned about the potential carryover of an allergen between products that are manufactured on shared equipment. Most of our production lines are designed to be convertible to other products. If a product is made on shared equipment, every reasonable precaution, including stringent cleaning and sanitation practices, is taken to prevent cross-contact with the eight major allergens (eggs, fish, shellfish, milk, peanuts, soy, tree nuts and wheat). When contact with one of these allergens is unavoidable, then the product is labeled appropriately. Please be aware that formulas may change and the best source of information is the ingredient line. We ask that our consumers take the time to check the ingredient line prior to purchasing a product."
From Cattlemen's, Heinz, and KC Masterpiece, we received a reiteration of the FDA's labeling requirements for the top 8 food allergens. No information regarding potential for cross contamination was provided.
Heinz provided an additional statement suggesting a doctor's note for more detailed information: "Because recipes are not patentable, the terms 'natural flavorings' and 'spices' refers to dried spices which are not disclosed on the label for proprietary reasons. Unfortunately, if you are allergic to an ingredient other than those specifically declared, we are not able to disclose whether your ingredient is being used in the recipe, and therefore suggest that you avoid using this product. However, if you would like to have your physician fax us a request on their letterhead with a contact phone number detailing the specific ingredient(s) in question."
Sweet Baby Ray's advised us "that the Sweet Baby Ray's has no peanuts, peanut oil, tree nuts, soy or milk products." No information regarding potential for cross contamination was provided.
Charlie Biggs stated that "Our 3 All Natural BBQ sauces do not contain any of those ingredients, however...the plant they are processed in does use several of the products." Charlie Biggs barbecue sauces are also gluten-free.
If the choices at the supermarket do not fit your needs, you can always make your own barbecue sauce! Nancy MacDonald and Chef Rick Tarantino of "You Won't Even Miss It" have graciously provided a barbecue recipe to get you started. Thanks Nancy and Rick!