Take me out to the ballgame (but hold the peanuts and Cracker Jack)

[This AllergyEats Blog post co-authored by Adrienne Walkowiak]

Take me out to the ballgame (but hold the peanuts and Cracker Jack)

Peanut-Free Baseball

As many of you know from experience, people with food allergies can often feel isolated.  Food-allergic children frequently can’t eat the cake at birthday parties or enjoy the same snacks as their friends. And until recently, many baseball fans with peanut allergies had to avoid ballparks because of the prevalance of peanuts, which – in severe cases – can be life-threatening.  Now, a growing number of baseball teams are hosting peanut-free seating at select games, ensuring that peanut-allergic fans can experience this popular summer ritual without the fear of encountering their trigger foods at the game.

The famous song says, “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,’’ but as fans with peanut allergies know, these snacks can trigger a serious allergic reaction.  My kids are huge sports enthusiasts, and luckily, their peanut allergies aren’t severe enough to keep us out of the ballpark.  But many people with more severe peanut allergies can’t even be in the proximity of peanuts without having a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.  At a typical baseball game, fans go through 3,000 bags of peanuts, scattering their shells throughout the stadium.  As a result, fans with severe peanut allergies have to watch the game from the safety of their own homes.

Now, peanut-allergic fans can have their day at the ballpark, which I believe is a huge victory for sports fans nationwide.  I’m thrilled that a variety of major and minor league baseball teams are catering to people with food allergies by offering peanut-free seating at select games.  This means kids (and other fans) with peanut allergies can finally attend baseball games – something that non-allergic fans take for granted.  (More stadiums are also adding gluten-free options at their concession stands now, which is another positive for the food intolerance community.)

It’s refreshing to see that about half the major league teams are now offering a few peanut-free games this season.

The Red Sox recently banned peanuts from an entire 226-person section of the ballpark as part of their efforts to accommodate food allergic fans.

The Washington Nationals have offered peanut-free suites at select games for several years, going to great lengths to ensure fans’ safety.  They carefully wash the peanut-free sections multiple times to make sure no traces of peanuts remain, and they use canola – not peanut – oil to cook the meals and snacks at the designated games.

The Minnesota Twins can seat 100 fans in a separate peanut-free section.  These guests arrive via a separate entrance and are treated to a peanut-free concession stand.

One team even has staff escort peanut-allergic fans to their seats through a special clean corridor, to reduce the possiblity of coming into contact with the offending food.

I take my (baseball) hat off to these and other teams, including the St. Louis Cardinals, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, and New York Mets, that are offering peanut-free games.

Minor league teams, known for being family friendly, are adopting peanut-free practices, as well.  Maryland’s minor league team, The Frederick Keys, designate certain games as peanut-free, and even have medical professionals on-site in case, despite all precautions, a food-allergic fan suffers an allergic reaction at the game.  Some teams also provide food labels at the concession stands, so food allergic fans (or their parents) can carefully review the ingredient listings to avoid allergy triggers.

Other teams that are accommodating peanut-allergic fans include Tacoma Rainers, Lowell Spinners and the Binghamton Barons. However, there are literally dozens of minor league teams that support peanut allergy-friendly games. As the popularity of these games spread, there are even websites devoted to promoting peanut free baseball games, such as http://www.peanutfreebaseball.com.

Before you buy tickets to a peanut-free ballgame, be aware that ballparks vary in their food policies. Some ballparks forbid outside food, but others make no restrictions. The procedures at these allergy-friendly games vary as well.  Some will only restrict peanuts in the concession areas closest to the peanut-free seating, while other ballparks won’t sell any peanut products anywhere throughout the stadium during designated games.  If you have any questions about your ballpark’s food allergy protocols and procedures, call the stadium’s customer relations department prior to the game.

Despite these accommodations, fans with food allergies should still use normal precautions, as no game can guarantee to be 100 percent allergen free.  It’s always possible that a fan will bring in their own outside snacks that are not peanut-free (even when outside snacks are forbidden), so remain vigilant and be sure to have your Epi-Pen or other allergy medications with you at all time.

Have you been to a nut-free baseball game?  If so, we’d love to hear about your experiences – positive or negative – just click Comments or Reply below.

And please remember to visit the main AllergyEats site (www.allergyeats.com) to rate all your recent dining experiences.  Each new rating continues to strengthen AllergyEats as a great dining-out tool for our entire food allergy and intolerance community.



    TONIGHT Thursday 7/14/11 is the third game of this season the Seattle Mariners have a section that welcomes peanut allergic fans!! There’s an August date left, too – this is the fourth season the Mariners have offered this!


    I neglected to add some thoughts that AllergyEats Blog reader Debbi had previously submitted to us:

    I just quickly wanted to mention I have had two great experiences going to baseball games this summer. At Petco Park, San Diego, I had a hot dog and beer, both gluten-free! What a treat! Then in going to the new Yankee Stadium, I found out at Guest Services that there was gluten-free pizza , it has to be specially made at one particular stand and may take 10 – 20 minutes, and that most Imported Beer stands carry Red Bridge beer. What a pleasant surprise! Guest Services thought they had gluten free hot dogs stands but we were not able to find that. HOWEVER the pizza was VERY GOOD! Maybe hot dogs will be next!


    We went the our local baseball team’s peanut free game and it was great! I spoke with them beforehand and they checked all the food they served to make sure it wasn’t processed around peanuts, too, and they wiped down all of the stadium chairs. The only downfall was that they didn’t have signs up declaring it a peanut-free game except for a couple small ones at the concession stands. Some people did sneak in peanuts, but luckily not around us. I did find it fitting that the fly ball went right at their heads…


    I have attended one Red Sox game in the peanut friendly sections and it was fabulous. There was one person who came and began eating peanuts, once the staffer was informed they confiscated the food and explained the situation. I believe is was an honest mistake. The Sox managment reviewed what happened and decided to increase signage and train those staff members who were at the entrance of the section.
    The kids attending were so excited as were all the parents and the seats were fabulous. It is truly a wonderful experience having had so many negatives ones in years prior.

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