Surprise! Vigilance tested as supermarket staple suddenly states “may contain nuts”

We’ve been a fan of Ocado since diagnosis. The website provides detailed product descriptions, with an ingredients list and allergen information. They have also attempted to provide a “nut free” filter, allowing you to whittle down your search results to show only the nut safe options. I’ve grumbled in the past that the filter does not pick up every safe product. However, whilst an imperfect tool, it is the best online supermarket I have come across so far, for nut free grocery shopping.

We shop there week in, week out. Invariably ordering their mini breadsticks, which my children love dunking into houmous. This week, we were heading for a playdate at a friend’s house. I’d promised to bring along some nut safe supplies for my two. When stood in her kitchen, I had a tense moment when I went to open the mini breadsticks tub. It now bore the warning:

“May also contain nuts, peanuts…”

Although the packet hadn’t yet been opened, I was annoyed with myself for letting contraband food into our nut free house.

BREADSTICKS

Don’t rely on websites: always check the label

Back at home, I checked the product description on the Ocado website. The allergen information now read:

Ocado mini breadsticks screen shot 22.7.14

However, the description on the Waitrose website still stated (as at 22 July 2014) that the product is suitable for those avoiding nuts:

Waitrose mini breadsticks screen shot 22.7.14

Indeed, the mini breadsticks are still listed on the list of Waitrose Own Label Products Suitable for those Avoiding Nuts and Peanuts (March 2014 version).

So, the addition of the “may contain” appears to be a recent change which the Waitrose website and safe product lists haven’t yet caught up with.

Why the new “may contain”?

My next thought was: WHY has this changed? Have the ingredients source or manufacturing arrangements altered? Or is this another example of a supermarket updating its labelling to comply with the new allergen labelling laws coming into force from December, and apparently seizing the opportunity to slap on a “may contain nuts” warning at the same time?

I have written to Ocado to ask what prompted the change (and to see if any of their own brand breadsticks remain nut safe). Update hopefully to follow.

Checking labels: rule of three

This experience is a reminder to always check the label. I remember reading an article where one allergy mum described how her family has a “three times” rule. They check a food’s ingredients label:

  • When they take a product off the shelf in a supermarket;
  • When they unpack the shopping at home; and
  • Before the product is opened.

On this occasion the label change was spotted in time. However, the breadsticks incident has given me a jolt to also remember to double check the ingredients as I add to basket and when I unpack the shopping too.

Update (28 August 2014): Ocado’s reply

I’m pleased to report that Ocado have now advised:

“This product is currently being re-designed and once the re-design is complete in the autumn, the declaration should change to ‘may contain traces of sesame and milk’. We will be taking out any reference to nuts and peanuts.”

So, it seems this product is only temporarily off limits. I’ll report back as and when I spot the new look packaging (with no reference to may contain nuts and peanuts) online.

5 comments

  1. Hi Louise

    So annoying (and worrying) that these things change and that it requires people to keep reading food labels every time they shop. I really believe that most managers and staff within the food manufacturing and supermarket businesses are unaware of what it is like to worry that May contain traces can present a risk to people’s health. We can only hope that the FSA and Anaphylaxis Campaign continue to raise awareness within the industry and that eventually the penny will drop and things will change.

    If it helps I can recommend these, although please check the label yourself to ensure I haven’t missed any changes to allergy information:

    http://www.ocado.com/productImages/773/77388011_0_640x640.jpg?identifier=414c8a52ba7b567d2303eb89f65b51e8

    We all love them in our house.

    Best wishes

    Liz

  2. I actually noticed this on my last Ocado shopping too!! Don’t know when this happened, however, while I had the breadsticks on my shopping list, I browsed accidentally and noticed the “May contain nuts” bit which wasn’t there before. I removed it from my list and was planning to go to Waitrose and check it myself (saved me the trip, thanks! :)). It’s getting more and more difficult to find things that do not have this warning anymore…M&S, Sainsbury, Tesco…all the own brand items have now the warning. I’m really dreading what’s going to happen in the next couple of years… 🙁 🙁
    I’m now looking for a nut-free birthday cake for my little one (cannot bake! :$) for Sunday and it’s proving to be more challenging than I thought.

  3. Thank you Louise! I actually saw one of these cakes the other day at my local Sainsbury’s and I was pleasantly surprised as I didn’t know this brand (I only knew Kinderton from the Easter eggs). I’ll check for the rest in a bigger branch. 🙂

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