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.

21 December 2008

If It's Really Nut-Free, Why Doesn't the Label Say So?

This has been on my mind for a few days. Over at Food Allergy Support (again, if you haven't visited there, please do--there's a wealth of helpful info there!), a member pointed out that Freed's Bakery of New Hampshire has a nut-free facility. Freed's is the maker of all those wonderful little mini-cupcakes we see in the supermarket bakery section, at least here in New England. This news brought joy and jubilation to some of us--imagine being able to go to your local supermarket and get a package of safe nut-free/peanut-free mini cupcakes? I don't know about other schools, but these little things are standard elementary school party fare. It'd be amazing and oh-so-convenient if they are safe.

I called the bakery in New Hampshire--as I am sure many others did upon reading this news--to find out a little more. The gentleman I spoke with said they converted to nut-free in February 2008. Apparently, they only had one item that contained tree nuts and they decided to eliminate it from their line of products. He also said that they have statements from their suppliers confirming the nut-free/peanut-free status of their ingredients. Moreover, the cupcakes are packaged at the nut-free facility--not the supermarket--so there should be virtually no chance of cross-contamination. Excellent!

So off I went to the nearby supermarket when what should my wondering eyes spy, but a package of mini-cupcakes for us to try. I checked the label, as I always do, and there was that warning--you've seen it too: "Made in a facility that processes peanuts, tree nuts...". I asked the supermarket bakery staff why that label is still there if the cupcakes are actually manufactured and packaged in Freed's nut-free facility. The answer? Freed's would need to provide "certification" to the supermarket's corporate office in order for the package to read "nut-free". That makes sense. So here's my next question, why hasn't Freed's bothered to do that? If they have, is there a reason that the supermarket's corporate office does not feel reassured that it is really a nut-free facility? Is there anything for us to be concerned about even though Freed's says that their cupcakes and facility are nut-free? I don't know about you, but I'd feel better if they'd get that warning label off and start using a nut-free label. I've left a voicemail for Freed's and will try them again soon. What's your opinion? Would you or do you buy them even though they still have that supermarket allergen warning label?


Anonymous said...

Today's Chicago Tribune addresses the label issue, and it made me feel even less safe as I did before. So many of the corporate responses outraged me. My son has both nut and milk allergies, so I pretty much have assumed we'll never be able to buy treats in a bakery, or grocery store, etc. But an allergen free label would make me more comfortable than a warning label any day... thanks so much for posting!

ElleMo said...

Freed's cupcakes are sold in supermarkets near me (central New Jersey) and have the nut-free facility label. So perhaps the supermarkets, or your state, require something different than whatever my local supermarkets do.

Unfortunately, my daughter does not like them. :-(

Unknown said...

Thanks for your comments, Kelly and ElleMo! I am hearing really mixed things about these cupcakes from Freed's. I believe the VP of Marketing when he says they converted to nut-free in Feb 08, but I strongly feel the label should reflect that everywhere. I am glad to hear some of you do see them with the nut-free label. A reader in RI--affiliated with Stop and Shop--says they do not have nut-free labels there. In addition, they checked with Stop and Shop's corporate office and they are unaware of Freed's being nut-free.

I have left a voicemail and also sent an email for Freed's inquiring about this. Am also following with the supermarkets too since I am not sure who's responsible for those nut-free labels. It may be up to the supermarket chain or even the individual stores...