Tesco nut allergy advisory labelling is changing

If you live in the UK and are shopping for nut safe foods, you will no doubt be all too familiar with Tesco’s customary warning wording:

“Recipe: No nuts. Ingredients: Cannot guarantee nut free. Factory: No nuts”

It’s certainly a format that makes you scratch your head on first reading. My understanding is that “Recipe: No nuts” means there have been no nuts intentionally added to the ingredients. Then “Ingredients: Cannot guarantee nut free” means they cannot vouch that all of those ingredients have not come into contact with nuts at some point during the production process (for example, at the harvesting and transport stages, before they arrive at the “no nuts” factory).

It seems to be a label format which polarises opinion. Some nut mums see it as a cop out, particularly when a company with Tesco’s clout surely has the power to insist that its suppliers  implement effective allergen management controls. Others find this wording more helpful than a blanket “may contain nuts”, and may risk buying the product, perhaps taking a view depending on the type of product and whether there is a nut free alternative available. Personally, I regard “Ingredients: Cannot guarantee nut free” as just another form of “may contain” wording, and avoid it in the same way I would for products with other forms of advisory wording.

Whatever your take on it, it’s all soon to be academic. It seems Tesco are phasing out the recipe/ingredients/factory format and moving instead to “may contain nuts”.

Goodbye “Ingredients: cannot guarantee nut free”…

In recent months, I’ve noticed more Tesco own brand products appear to be labelled “may contain nuts” (thanks Alison and Tracey for flagging this too). Back in July, there was orange juice. Then in November, there was ham. At the time, I was irritated that such basic products were now off limits for my son. However, wasn’t it odd that the labels said “may contain nuts”, rather than the the recipe/ingredients/factory format we all know (if not necessarily love)?

Tesco orange juice may contain nuts labelAs regards the new look allergen labels which are compulsory from December 2014, the Tesco website (as at 21 January 2014) says:

Tesco allergy labels

This hints that the “may contain nuts” format will be introduced at the same time as the labels are changed to highlight the (intentionally added) allergens in bold.

… hello “may contain nuts”

I asked Tesco:

  • Whether their nut allergy advisory labelling has changed, and
  • If a product was formerly labelled “Recipe: No nuts. Ingredients: Cannot guarantee nut free. Factory: No nuts”, will this now be labelled “may contain nuts”?

 Here’s what they told me:

“I’d like to confirm that if our products used to say “Recipe: No nuts. Ingredients: Cannot guarantee nut free. Factory: No nuts”,  this has now changed to “may contain nuts” – if a product actually contains nuts, it will state this in bold on the ingredients list. If the product states “may contain nuts” and there is not nuts in the ingredients list, it means the factory makes something that contains nuts, which could contaminate the food.. but there is no nuts in the ingredients.”

So, from this, the answers to my questions were “yes” and “yes”. “May contain nuts” is being used where:

  • They cannot vouch the ingredients have not been near nuts earlier in the manufacturing process; and/or
  • The factory handles nut products.

And love it, loathe it, or regard it as just another form of “may contain…”, the recipe/ingredients/factory format will soon be a thing of the past.

3 comments

  1. This is the reply i have just got from Tesco when I asked about the above
    Tesco Hi Deborah,

    Thank you for contacting us about peanut allergy.

    We’ve recently developed a new approach to nut labelling and we’re moving away from blanket statements such as “may contain nuts”. This approach has been developed with nut allergy sufferers.

    Tesco products now carry one of five nut statements, which advise customers on the nut status of the product, the recipe and the site. These five statements are:

    Free from nuts
    Recipe: No nuts. Ingredients: Cannot guarantee nut free. Factory: No nuts

    Recipe: No nuts. Ingredients: Cannot guarantee nut free. Factory: Product made in a nut free area, but nuts used elsewhere

    Recipe: No nuts. Ingredients: Cannot guarantee nut free. Factory: Before being prepared for manufacture of this product, the equipment was previously used to make products containing nuts.

    Recipe: Contains [identify particular nut]. May contain traces of other nuts

    We strongly believe that this approach is more helpful for customers with a nut allergy.

    Thank you for taking the time to contact us.

    Regards,
    Lowri – Customer Care

    1. Hi Deborah – thank you very much for this. Concerning, as completely at odds with what I was told yesterday morning! I will ask for clarification from Tesco. Update hopefully to follow …

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