Here’s Why Honey Nut Cheerios Don’t Contain Nuts

The incoming Web queries for a website are like an oracle: sometimes we can see trends or growing problems by reading them, like when people had trouble with the Gree dehumidifier recall. Sometimes searchers find us when they search for the answers to questions that we had never thought to ask. Last week, someone asked Google whether Honey Nut Cheerios contain any nuts. The short answer: No.

Sure, you could actually read the ingredients on a box of Honey Nut Cheerios, but that would take up valuable time that could be spent eating cereal instead. Here are the ingredients, not including the added vitamins and minerals:

Whole Grain Oats (Includes The Oat Bran), Sugar, Modified Corn Starch, Honey, Brown Sugar Syrup, Salt, Tripotassium Phosphate, Canola And/Or Rice Bran Oil, Natural Almond Flavor. Vitamin E (Mixed Tocopheroils) Added to Preserve Freshness

It turns out that they did contain ground almonds until about 2006, but that’s been replaced with “natural almond flavor.” Where things get kind of weird is that natural almond flavor does not necessarily have to contain almonds. Since Honey Nut Cheerios do contain a warning for people with almond or other tree nut allergies, there could be real almonds in there, but the interesting part is that they don’t have to tell us.

Most “natural almond flavor” comes from the pits of peaches and apricots, which are a waste product when those fruits get processed. Peaches and apricots are relatives of almonds, and some people who are allergic to almonds are also allergic to these fruits.

That’s why Honey Nut Cheerios have an almond allergy warning even though they may not contain any almonds at all. It’s the worst of both worlds, really: no almonds, but people who are allergic to almonds still probably shouldn’t eat it.