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.

08 February 2009

Cupcake Label Mystery

You may recall I wrote about Freed's mini-cupcakes a few weeks ago in a post entitled If They're Nut-Free, Why Doesn't the Label Say So? They're a wholesale bakery in New Hampshire that produces the mini-cupcakes and other baked items many of us see in our supermarket bakeries. Shaw's Supermarket happens to be a store near me which carries the Freed's cupcakes, but they are also sold at other stores such as BJ's and Market Basket, to name a few. I should note that there are other bakeries making very much the same products so you will need to verify with the supermarket bakery which company is the manufacturer.

Some of my acquaintances on Food Allergy Support find the Freed's cupcakes at their local supermarket with the highly sought-after nut-free label. I was disappointed to continually find them at Shaw's Supermarket without a nut-free label but bearing instead a general allergen disclaimer stating "Products from our bakery department may have been exposed to or contain allergens such as milk, eggs, wheat, soy, tree nuts or peanuts".  I wondered if the general allergen disclaimer accurately reflected the actual potential for cross-contamination since the manufacturer (also responsible for packaging) of the cupcakes claims to be a nut-free facility. 

It took a long time to get my answer, but I learned on Friday, February 6, that the cupcakes arrive in packages which are easily opened so that the supermarket can decorate the cupcakes with seasonal decorations or sprinkles. These decorations and sprinkles could contain traces of nuts and/or peanuts, and the supermarket bakery is not a nut-free environment, so Shaw's Supermarket decided to use the general allergen disclaimer because of this risk of cross-contamination. Kudos to Shaw's for looking out for us!

I would be surprised if Shaw's Supermarket is the only store where the Freed's cupcakes arrive in the easy-open packages. There is a good possibility that other stores may be opening the packages and adding their own seasonal decorations to the cupcakes as well. If this is the case, those cupcakes also have a risk of cross-contamination and should not bear a nut-free label. At a minimum, the fact that products from Freed's bear different allergen labels and warnings in different locations is concerning and clarification is needed.

I emailed and telephoned Freed's a month ago and received no response. It would be extremely helpful if those of us who find Freed's cupcakes in the local supermarket could compare packages and labels to find out why they are labeled differently in different stores. Are the cupcakes packaged the same in each supermarket chain? Are they decorated at the supermarkets across the board? We need to have accurate information on the possibility of cross-contamination after the cupcakes leave Freed's Bakery. If you are able to get a photo of the labels and packages of the Freed's mini-cupcakes at your supermarket, please email the photo to me at jenniferATfoodallergybuzz.com. I will collect all the photos and info and share it with you here on Food Allergy Buzz, so we can compare notes. Thanks for any helpful information or photos you can provide!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have been looking in my local markets for a year and have only ever found mini-cupcakes to have the nut free label. Walmart is my go-to place...I wonder if it is just common practice for the mini cakes to be pre-decorated in seasonal colors, but not as elaborate as a store may do to larger ones. I never noticed a different label other than the Walmart one and the beautiful crossed out peanut!