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.

15 June 2009

If Only More Food Manufacturers Were This Responsive

Wow. Recently, I published a post speculating about Whole Foods' peanut-free labeling policy, Has Whole Foods Changed Their Peanut-Free/Nut-Free Policy? The impetus for that post was a Worcester Telegram article about a Massachusetts company, Indigo Rabbit, which makes healthy and tasty cookies. The article stated "But it’s the nutritional labeling that tells the story. Consumers who want a tasty cookie that is lactose free, gluten free, egg free, nut free, soy free and vegan turn to Indigo Rabbit, according to Foster, a former psychotherapist who specialized in eating disorders." If you are a regular Food Allergy Buzz reader, you can imagine that made my antennae quiver with concern!

I immediately contacted Whole Foods via Twitter to find out what the story with the peanut-free labeling was. They used to insist on dedicated facilities, did they change that practice? They responded fairly quickly and so did Indigo Rabbit's founder and owner, Sandy Foster. I have to admit that I have been really impressed by Sandy the two times I have spoken with her. She's smart, she's focused, she's worked really hard to develop great-tasting, quality foods, and her customer service skills are phenomenal. Indigo Rabbit is clearly a company that listens to its customers and cares about them. Huh, that almost sounds weird to say about a food manufacturer, since it seems that is so rarely the case.

Sandy sent an email explaining in clear language how Indigo Rabbit handles food allergen labeling, how the labeling and packaging reads at Whole Foods and will eventually read at all stores carrying Indigo Rabbit cookies. They're changing their labeling so it will no longer say gluten-free, it will say wheat-free, and it will no longer say peanut-free or nut-free because of the shared facility. The label also bears additional information about the shared facility to address potential cross-contamination questions. It sounds like Indigo Rabbit has really made an effort to make its labeling clear and helpful for food allergic consumers. Imagine that! If only more food manufacturers would hear our concerns and clarify their labeling similarly! It's fantastic!

I'm still waiting for Whole Foods to confirm their peanut-free labeling policy. (nudge, nudge!) In the meantime, however, below is some very helpful information I received from Indigo Rabbit:

I would like to address the concerns raised online regarding Indigo Rabbit’s product labeling practices. At Indigo Rabbit, we take food allergies very seriously.

All Indigo Rabbit products are baked in the same bakery. Good manufacturing practices (GMP’s) are used to reduce the risk of cross-contamination, including but not limited to sterilizing of machinery, line scheduling to segregate allergen and non-allergen ingredients, and line testing for gluten. Please see our website, http://indigorabbit.com/allergy-info/ for a more detailed description of our practices.

Indigo Rabbit product packaging includes ingredient statements, Contains statements, and advisory statements (“Manufactured in a facility that processes nuts wheat, eggs, milk and soy”), the latter of which are not currently mandated by the FDA.

Products are labeled “Nut Free” if they do not contain peanuts or tree nuts by formulation.

I will also address our “Gluten Free” labeling as this may be relevant to some of your readers. Indigo Rabbit products are labeled “Gluten Free” if they do not contain wheat, rye, barley or oats by formulation. We line test throughout production to ensure that all products labeled as such test negative for gluten. Indigo Rabbit executes such assessment even though it is not currently mandated by the FDA.

Whole Foods Markets upholds an allergy labeling guideline that extends beyond that stipulated by the FDA. Indigo Rabbit products sold in Whole Foods, therefore, do not contain the terms “Nut Free” or “Gluten Free” in order to make clear that Indigo Rabbit cookies are baked in a shared facility.

We are working toward a production-wide shift in Indigo Rabbit package labeling. Consumers who seek Nut Free and/or Gluten Free items will note that our product line has such offerings by formulation and will be able to make the best decisions for their families based on manufacturing practices, which have always been clearly defined in Indigo Rabbit marketing materials and correspondence.

Thank you for the opportunity to make our processes clear so that cookie lovers, both members of the allergy community and not, can have the greatest confidence in the Indigo Rabbit product line, of which we are very proud.

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