Last week there was a storm on social media, when Tesco said the following about “Also, may contain nuts” warnings on its Facebook page:
(click here for the full thread, which stands at 219 comments at the time of typing).
This, understandably, sparked an outcry from those with nut allergies and those with nut allergic children. It would mean all Tesco own brand products were off limits for those avoiding products labelled “may contain nuts”. Would this approach be adopted by other manufacturers? And surely not ALL products could be at risk of cross contamination from nuts? This smacked of a indiscriminate blanket measure, which would surely fly in the face of the Food Standards Agency’s best practice guidance, which although voluntary, sets out that manufacturers should only apply a traces warning when “following a thorough risk assessment, there is a demonstrable and significant risk of allergen cross-contamination”.
Tesco initially explained that the reason for this change was “due to the labelling laws changing at the end of this year”:
This line was repeated several times and only served to incite more outrage, given the new allergen laws coming into force on 13 December 2014 do not change the position on may contain labelling (they are and will continue to be voluntary).
Surely this couldn’t be true? Yet, as one commenter on the Facebook thread noted, it was all going on a little too long for an April Fool…
Then the Tesco back track began on Wednesday morning:
This was followed by several more customer service responses, clarifying that a “may contain nuts” warning would only be used where there was a risk of cross contamination. More detail was provided by Danny on Wednesday afternoon:
So, all’s well that ends well? Despite a customer service social media response reminiscent of Alpro, it seems the upshot for nut allergic families is that Tesco are shifting from the recipe/ingredients/factory format to the phrase “may contain nuts”, and that advisory labelling will continue to only be used where there is a cross contamination risk. This tallies with the advice they gave me back in January (see Tesco nut allergy advisory labelling is changing).
It therefore looked like the storm had blown over. However, it seems the furore has prompted customers to focus on just how many Tesco products are now labelled with a nut allergy warning. This is a trend which has been going on for some time… here are two of the more surprising (read: irritating) examples I’ve come across:
Check out the @Tesco_R_Nuts twitter feed for more…
It makes you wonder whether Laura and Daniel and colleagues did simply make a PR gaffe, or whether they know something about the may contains policy the public as yet don’t…
At least we have a choice in where to shop. So if one supermarket decides to slap a “may contain nuts” warning on every product, unless they have a monopoly on a particular product market, we can vote with our feet and take our business elsewhere. I guess the problem would be if they all did it. But then, if it ever got to that stage, before we all begin growing our own and living the Good Life, fingers crossed the Food Standards Agency would be able to intervene.
Update (15 April 2014) – Please sign the Petition!
Allergy mum Clare Hussein is petitioning Tesco to stop using blanket ‘may contain nuts’ labels. She is:
“calling on Tesco to act now to change its labelling procedures to ensure they are true reflections of risk. They need transparent traceability for all ingredients so a may contain label is only used with real need.”
To see the full Petition, click here: http://change.org/tesconuts … please sign and share this link.
Update (29 April 2014) – Tesco confirms “may contain nuts” has been put on products it shouldn’t…
Fantastic news: Tesco have conceded to #TescoMayContainNuts campaigners that “Recently how we label has changed and in that changeover the “may contain” statement has been put on products it shouldn’t and caused a lot of confusion and anguish amongst our customers – for which we are very sorry.”.
See screen shot below for one example (taken from this Facebook thread):
If you haven’t already done so, please do sign and share the Petition – let’s get unnecessary labels removed from every product on which they’ve been put “but shouldn’t” have been!