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.


25 February 2010

Nut-Free...Sorta

You can find me most days on Twitter, @FoodAllergyBuzz. The other day, I spotted a tweet from Elizabeth Goldenberg, founder of Onespot Allergy (www.onespotallergy.com), about Peeled Snacks sold at Starbucks. We had a chat on Twitter about Peeled Snacks and Elizabeth emailed some additional information. Take a look at what Elizabeth had to say:

"This past weekend, I was at Starbucks and grabbed a bag of Lucy's Cookies and a bag of mango Peeled Snacks for my food allergic son.  I've had the cookies before and had read the bags over carefully and visited the company website, so I knew they were safe.  As a matter of habit since I was holding a new product, and despite my recollection that Starbucks said the Peeled Snacks are nut free, I checked the bag and saw that they are made in a facility that manufactures nut products.  In fact, the apple and cherry Peeled Snacks also had that warning.  I've attached a photo of the bag and a photo of the allergy warning.

I don't know if Starbucks provides allergen information in stores, so I had previously contacted Starbucks directly and was sent an e-mail with the allergy information  I received this response: "As Starbucks cannot explicitly make specific claims regarding allergies, according to the brand’s packaging (labels/claims) and ingredients, the following new packaged products are nut free" and all three flavors of Peeled Snacks were on that list.  At the bottom of the message was the caution to verify these claims with each brand individually. I did so with Lucy's Cookies, and had I done so with Peeled Snacks, I would have immediately seen the issue. Thankfully, when I bought the product for my nut allergic son, I checked the bag, saw the allergen warning, and no harm was done.  

I visited the Peeled Fruit website and found this page of frequently asked questions: FAQ: http://bit.ly/b04oQB .  Nuts are clearly in many products, and I wonder how they could have been included on a nut-free list.  I encourage all consumers to always check package labeling every time, and call facilities for additional information if in doubt."


It's important to share this sort of conflicting information. Starbucks lists Peeled Snacks as nut-free, yet the Peeled Snacks package itself states "Made in a facility that manufactures nut products". For those unable to safely eat foods containing traces of nuts, ingesting a snack listed as nut-free but which may possibly contain traces of nuts could cause a fatal allergic reaction. If you blog about food allergies or  otherwise can help us spread the word, please share this information about Starbucks' list of allergy-friendly menu items and the conflicting information on the Peeled Snacks package.

Kudos to the Peeled Snacks people for providing additional helpful allergen information on their packages, helping food allergic individuals make safe food choices. To the folks at Starbucks: thank you for trying to accommodate those with celiac disease and food allergies but please reconsider the use of the term "nut-free" on your allergy friendly menus--it means different things to different people and inaccurate or misleading wording on a menu can mean the difference between life and death for a food allergic individual.

Thank you to Elizabeth for noticing this and sharing it with us. Elizabeth Goldenberg is the owner of Onespot Allergy, a superb online store for allergy safety products and kits. You may find Onespot Allergy at www.onespotallergy.com , on Twitter, @Onespot_Allergy and also on Facebook.

7 comments:

Colette said...

This really is frustrating isn't it? The problem is -- the FDA does not have guidelines (yet) on what they call 'advisory labelling'. The plain fact is -- that vendors can claim 'nut free' as long as nuts are not one of the (intended) ingredients. Today's labeling does not account for possible cross-contamination.

Jenny said...

I have talked about this stuff a lot on my blog, also, and I thank you and Elizabeth for this alert.

I'd also recommend that people read web site nutritional info for supposedly "nut-free" products. Often an item has more detailed allergy info online than on the label.

Labels make me crazy with their disregard for cross-contact issues. Please be vigilant everyone--and buy "real" nut-free when you can, such as Enjoy Life Foods or Lucy's Cookies (the ones you mention.)

Great work, Jen and Elizabeth.

Miryam (mama o' the matrices) said...

oh, good grief. Yet another reason to check every label, every time...

sigh.

Colette said...

I think we're stuck with having to read every label every time. Formulas can change. But -- we have to fight so that they labels have the accurate information we need -- and some consistency in labeling.

kelly said...

i second what jenny said...kudos to you for doing all this fact checking. it is so important to spread the word. as soon as i read that the product was made with fava bean flour, i knew my FA couldn't have it as he is severely allergic to peanuts and legumes as well. i wish more mainstream places like starbucks would offer an allergen free product, period. no nut containing facility, etc.

Elizabeth said...

On Friday, I received an e-mail from Starbucks asking me to revise the allergy friendly list I'd posted online. They said it's confusing their customers, and they now realize about the "may contain" distinction. I will do so, since I don't want anyone relying on the inaccurate nut free list. Needless to say, I was surprised to have caught Starbucks attention, and I credit all you bloggers.

Lindsay said...

I just came across your blog (and this post in particular) while looking online for a photo of the back-side of a Peeled Snacks package. I just wrote about something I read on their allergen statement, if you're interested. Have a great nut-free day!
Lindsay
www.nutfreelife.blogspot.com

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