Balsam of Peru comes from the bark of a tree originally found in El Salvador, which was then part of Peru. Some people are allergic to this sticky liquid, which smells a bit like cinnamon and vanilla and is used to flavor some foods and drinks. Skin reactions such as a rash tend to be most common, but other potential allergy symptoms could include swelling of the mouth and throat and difficulty breathing. People who have such allergies should avoid foods containing balsam of Peru or chemically similar substances.
Foods of Concern
Candies, soft drinks, artificially flavored baked goods and aperitifs, such as bitters or vermouth, sometimes contain balsam of Peru. The peels of citrus fruit and certain spices, including cinnamon, curry, cloves, vanilla, paprika and nutmeg, contain substances similar to those found in balsam of Peru. Bedford Hospital, a part of the British National Health Service, recommends people with an allergy to balsam of Peru also avoid chocolate, wine, liquor and tomatoes. Foods containing benzoic acid and similar preservatives may contain balsam of Peru. Other foods to avoid include marmalade, ice cream, all spices, liver pate, pickled foods, ketchup, chutney and commercially prepared sauces.