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 allergen-free.

25 January 2012

Not Very Food Allergy Friendly

Did you read my last post abut trying to get information about cross-contamination from Heinz?  Well, I wrote again and here is the answer I received: 

January 25, 2012
Dear Jennifer,Thank you for visiting our web site.We are not required to list allergens present within a manufacturing facility, only those that are present as ingredients used within the product. Unfortunately we are not able to provide information as to whether any other ingredients are present in the manufacturing facility.Thanks again for contacting us.  We appreciate your interest.Heinz Consumer Resource Center

I will let my son know that the manufacturer refused to answer our question, so we must assume the food is not made in a facility free of peanuts and tree nuts. I'm a little stunned by the lack of customer service by Heinz. Pretty huge company, surely they can do better than that. Usually, when manufacturers want to dodge the cross-contamination question, they make a broad statement about their manufacturing processes constantly being modified so they cannot answer which allergens are present, blah blah, but they are very careful to prevent cross-contamination, blah blah. Heinz didn't even do that. Makes ya wonder...

A few food allergy friends with allergies beyond the big 8 wrote and said (nicely) "Take a walk in our shoes and try to get answers." They are quite right. Those of us dealing with allergies included in the big 8 are lucky. At a minimum, we usually know if the allergen is an ingredient, and often we know if it is a "may contains". I can't imagine having to figure out mustard, sesame, strawberry...etc.

So, no TGIF Frozen stuff for us. No biggie. Now I've personally learned Heinz is truly NOT food allergy friendly. At the same time, this experience has served as a reminder--not that any of us should need one!--that our friends with allergies outside the big 8 really need our support to push for better labeling.

UPDATE (I feel like that narrator French guy on Spongebob, "A few hours later..."): I did a little digging through my old emails. It turns out I have written to Heinz in the past, and the answer I got that time was better. Maybe Heinz isn't so unfriendly to food allergies, after all.  Maybe Consumer Affairs just needs a refresher on how to answer questions for food allergic consumers.  Below is the answer I received when I wrote last February to find out about Bagel Bites for my son. Take a look! It was much more informative than the one I received today.

February 1, 2011
Dear Jennifer,

Because we understand how difficult it is for consumers with food allergies to find 'safe' processed foods, we clearly list the FDA Top 8 Major Allergens on our ingredient panels if they are included in our products.

The FDA specifies the Top 8 Major Allergens are as follows:  Soy; Wheat; Peanuts; Eggs; Dairy; Tree Nuts; Shellfish & Crustaceans; and Fish.

Currently, these ingredients are listed specifically within our ingredient statements.  They are also called out in bold print underneath the ingredient statement.  Older packaging will only reflect these allergens within the ingredient statement itself (rather than reiterating the information in bold print).

The product does not contain nor is it manufactured around nuts. This product is made in a peanut and tree nut free facility.

Thank you for your interest in Heinz products.

Heinz Consumer Resource Center

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