With an eye on the food allergy community as a unique group of consumers since 2008, we're on a quest to find and share ways to continue enjoying the good things in life.

23 December 2008

"Another One Bites the Dust"

A visitor to Food Allergy Support wrote in a recent thread about food manufacturers that Stroehmann, Thomas' and Entenmanns all now are on shared lines. This caught my attention immediately because about two months ago, I had called Thomas' to learn if their mini-bagels were made in a peanut-free facility. I remember I was so excited to hear that they did not use peanuts in any of their factories; the customer representative said all Thomas' products were made in facilities which do not handle peanuts. 

Unfortunately, that no longer is the case. Now, all products from George Weston Bakeries, Inc. brands--Thomas, Entenmans, Arnold, Freihofer, Brownberry and Boboli--apparently are all made in facilities which use peanuts and tree nuts. When I phoned customer service yesterday, they confirmed this and stated that they follow practices which meet and/or exceed that required by law and make all reasonable efforts to avoid cross-contamination, etc. What a disappointment! Just eliminating Thomas' is a lot food to cross off our safe list. 

I can't help but wonder which products they make containing peanuts and tree nuts. A quick visit to their websites helped confirm that some danish made by Entenmann's contains tree nuts and Freihofer's, Brownberry and Arnold all have nut breads containing tree nuts. I cannot, however, find any Thomas' or Boboli products that contain tree nuts or peanuts. In fact, I could not find any products at all made by any George Weston brands that contain peanuts. 

I find it hard to believe that they have significantly altered their manufacturing process in a few months' time such that now all the Thomas' products are made in facilities using peanuts and tree nuts. I am not suggesting that anyone should ignore the statement from George Weston Bakeries, but I wonder how accurate it is. It reminds me of the time when we were going to eat at an italian restaurant and they told us that everything in the restaurant contained peanuts! It obviously wasn't true, but they wanted to make it clear they did not want to deal with the peanut allergy. Are all the facilities of all the brands of George Weston Bakeries really using peanuts and tree nuts suddenly? It's hard to even guess which, if any, of their products might contain peanuts. With Christmas around the corner, it might take while, but I am going to try to get some clarification from the parent company on this apparent manufacturing change.

These sorts of broad "advisory" statements don't seem very helpful sometimes. Of course, it's easier for a company to simply state that it can't guarantee the safety of anything. That way, no one has to deal with which major food allergens are present at a particular facility. It's a sort of "pass at your own risk" way of dealing with food allergic consumers. It almost borders on discrimination. Surprising that so many food manufacturers fail to recognize that a little effort to be food allergy friendly goes a long way. I think we are a pretty loyal bunch of customers--when we find something safe, we stick with it--and we also tell our friends about food allergy friendly products. With the rise of food allergies and the growing market for food allergy friendly foods, one wonders why a company would change its practices so that its products appeal to fewer consumers.

UPDATE: I received some helpful information from George Weston Bakeries' Director of Marketing which you can read about in Allergen Labeling at George Weston Bakeries.


Anonymous said...

wow, thanks so much for sharing. thomas' is our go to bagel and i am now just confused. does this mean for sure it is on shared lines? or could they be making a blanket statement?

Unknown said...

When I called just before Christmas, the manufacturer stated that everything is made on shared lines. This is a change from what I was told a few months ago. I plan to follow-up on it and will let you know if I learn anything further. In the meantime, it would be interesting to know if more people have been told they are now on shared lines as well or if they have heard something different. Anybody get a different answer?