What you need to know about nut allergy in France

Did you know that the french don’t really have one word in their vocabulary for nuts?

The lonely peanut, By Ruth HolroydMany people mistakenly think the word noix or noisettes is the word for nuts.

Indeed this might be just the word you’re looking for if you’re allergic to certain types of nuts only, but if you’re allergic to peanuts or all nuts you need to use a completely different phrase and approach in France.

What do the french call nuts?

Fruits secs is the term used in France to describe dry fruit. Note that is DRY fruit not dried fruit. The dictionary meaning explains it as food that is naturally dry and contains a kernel.

They also say fruits a coque and the word coque means shell or husk which when explained, does make sense, but caused us endless confusion on our holiday skiing in France earlier this year.

The words for other nuts are as follows:

  • Almond – l’amande (Pronounced: lah mahnd)
  • Cashew – l’anacarde (pronounced: lah-nah-card)
  • Chestnut – le marronnier or la châtaigne (pronounced: leh mah-rohn, lah shah-tay-nhy)
  • Hazelnut – la noisette (pronounced: lah nwah-zeht)
  • Walnut – la noix (pronounced: lah nwah)
  • Peanut – l’arachide or la cacahouète (pronounced: lah-rah-sheed, lah kah-kah-wayt)
  • Pecan – noix de pécan (pronounced: Nwah de paycan)

So how have you found eating out in France?

Have you tried it? Do you find it easy? I am lucky to have a husband who speaks very good French so this does help but it is very scary and difficult even for him and I wonder how we would have survived without his knowledge of the language.

If you can communicate that you wish your steak to be cooked just in oil because you cannot eat any butter due to an allergy there is usually something. I do pity the vegan person with allergies – the French are not that kind to anyone who doesn’t want to eat their delicious meat. I find I order steak medium rare they breath a sigh of relief the the English tourist at least understand how meat should be cooked.

Allergy thankfully is a very similar word in french – allergie.

I’d love to hear how you have got on eating out on holiday and in particular how you manage the language barrier? The translation cards need to get a little complicated when you have multiple allergies…

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About Ruth

Ruth works freelance as a copywriter and writes the What Allergy blog to share information with people who have allergies, eczema, asthma and food intolerances. http://www.whatallergy.com was voted in the top 5 allergy blogs and Ruth also judges regularly for the FreeFrom Food Awards and FreeFrom Skincare Awards. She also won the Foods You Can People's choice Best FreeFrom blogger award 2014.

Comments

  1. There’s also noix de bresil, noix de macadamia etc. which do translate quite well.
    The French Wiki link below is a good resource:

    http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fruit_sec

    It includes the following list:

    Liste de fruits naturellement secs
    Partie comestible de la Noix de Grenoble.Amande (Prunus dulcis), en coque, mondée, tranchée, effilée, en poudre
    Cacahuète (Arachis hypogaea), en coque, entière, grillée
    Noisette (Corylus avellana), en coque, entière, en poudre
    Noisette chilienne (Gevuina avellana), entière, en coque
    Noix (Juglans), en coque, en cerneaux, en poudre
    Noix du Brésil (Bertholettia excelsa) en coque, entière
    Noix de cajou
    Noix de coco (Cocos nucifera), effilée, en poudre
    Noix de macadamia (Macadamia integrifolia), entière, en poudre
    Noix de pécan (Carya Illinoinensis), en coque, en cerneaux, en poudre
    Pignon de pin (Pinaceae), on mange l’intérieur de la graine. Le pignon n’est pas un fruit au sens strict du terme.
    Pistache (Pistacia vera), salées en coque, grillées, en poudre

    • Thanks Keene – a very concise list. I will udpate my blog with these when I have time. I’m guessing Pin is pine nut? The more I think about this the more I realise the french way of labelling actually helps quite a bit. It gives the allergic consumer so much more information. Instead of saying just ‘may contain nuts’ or ‘contains nuts’ it actually tells you the EXACT nut in most cases but I have to say I was under the misguided opinion that noix was nuts for years.

  2. I’ve just returned from France after reacting to fruits a coques that was in a burger with hash browns.
    The language barrier wasn’t a problem in anywhere we went, as you say allergie is easy to recognise. I asked about my allergies and in some places (mainly chain restaurants) there were allergy lists but had never heard the phrase fruits a coques.
    Lesson learnt after a brief visit to French A&E.

  3. Anne Christine says:

    ah, as someone whose mother-tongue is French, I wish to make a small correction:

    cashew nut = noix de cajou.

    And to be pedant, les marrons should refer to horse chestnuts, the one you can’t eat, but we do sometimes call les châtaignes = marrons.

  4. I loved working in the Med and had great experiences. However, having lived in France and Italy, I found that allergy awareness was very low compared to Northern Europe and the USA. It was more likely to be interpreted as being picky rather than associated with illness.

    For example, I experienced a doctor refusing to renew my epipen stating that it was not appropriate for anyone outside of the medical profession to carry such strong drugs. Moreover, on stating that I was allergic, restaurants would often suggest that I pick off the nuts from food stuff or would state that it was only a small amount of nuts in foods so it shouldn’t be a problem.

    I don’t believe that this was an attempt to be awkward or difficult, I just found that allergies were highly uncommon in this area of the world and so very few people were aware of the care and precautions necessary. I would love to know why this was the case and whether it is a genetic predisposition or an environmental trigger which has caused this geographic split!

    My advice to anyone travelling to these areas with an allergy is to pick the most familiar foods and safest possible options. I entirely avoided reactions whilst working abroad through cooking my own food, being very very safe in my choices in restaurants and making an effort to explain the consequence of an allergy as well as simply stating that you have one.

    Have a great trip everyone!

  5. This blog and comments have been so informative! Thank you!! We leave for France next month and my 3 year old is allergic to peanuts. We will have our own kitchen so I plan to make all of her meals, but would anyone mind sharing their experiences with the food labeling in France? I am wondering what I am in for when I get to the market.
    Thank you!

    • The supermarkets are brilliant there. Not sure what you’ll get Europe has the same rules in all countries so if you know what the word is for peanuts you’ll be fine. Just be careful of nuts on ice cream. They don’t often understand quite what we mean. Markets will be fine. Just enjoy the fresh local produce and cook from scratch. Hope you have fun 🙂

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