It’s the time of year when my travel schedule gets incredibly crazy as I go to both business trade shows and consumer trade shows for gluten free and allergy friendly foods. It means that my blog posts have rather erratic timing but I certainly find much in my travels to blog about.
I spent last week in Portland and Seattle, first attending a college and university foodservice trade show followed by meetings up the coast of the Pacific Northwest. It’s such an amazing difference from even 5 years ago when I had to convince many why they needed “free from” food in their stores and foodservice environments. Now, so many people are up on the needs and I’ll write another post about the amazing service one university in California gives their allergic students.
One disturbing development though was when I went on store visits. That’s when I pop into various stores in the area, some that carry our products, some that do not, so that I can see what they’re doing in their stores for the “free from” market. If I find something new and wonderful, I’ll purchase it to bring to my family to enjoy.
On 3 separate store visits, I found 3 different products that had labeling that to me, as a consumer of allergy friendly food, was unacceptable. I’ve often found inappropriate labeling on small, local companies’ products which I can understand. While it’s still not okay, tiny companies often don’t have the experience on labeling nor the budget to hire a labeling consultant. But this time I also found major companies that had really misleading labels.
I won’t mention the exact companies as these concerns are about me as a purchaser of free from food, not as the manufacturer of a potentially competing company. Here’s what I’m talking about:
Major National Gluten Free Company:
Front of package: Nut Free
Back of package disclaimer: Made in a facility that also processes tree nuts
Small Local Company:
Front of package: No Wheat, No Soy, No Dairy
Back of package disclaimer: Produced in a facility that may process wheat, dairy, eggs, nuts, shellfish, and/or soy
See anything that concerns you here? From my perspective, if a manufacturer is going to make a front of package “free from” claim, they are being misleading if they also feel that they must put on a disclaimer. It’s either one or the other, not both, in my opinion.
I did talk to the buyers at the stores of the above products (2 different stores). One store buyer agreed that it was a concern but that they were having great difficulty sourcing products that were completely free of many allergens.
The store buyer at a different store figured the “nut free” on the major brand gluten free muffins was just fine because there were no nuts in the muffins. Obviously, cross contamination concerns were not on her radar and she didn’t show much interest in my concern as the parent of a child with life threatening nut allergies.
What do you think about this kind of labeling? Am I being overly picky?