Our Adventures

  • 05 Apr 2014

    Tesco and the allergen labelling laws - are we confused or are we confused?

    Posted: 05 Apr 2014

    Oh dear. Tesco unwittingly stepped into the eye of an allergen labelling storm earlier this week. It started with a comment on Facebook where a mum expressed her annoyance that suddenly a 'May contain nuts' warning had appeared on the new Tesco 'Free from' chocolate buttons.

    Parents of children with multiple allergies will completely understand her frustration. When your child is already on a restricted diet, to find that a previously safe product may now be unsafe, is extremely irritating. All the more so because the 'May Contain Nuts' disclaimer is so damn vague. Does it contain nuts, or doesn't it?

    Tesco's first few responses to the comment on Facebook were less than clear. A post from their Customer Care team stated the 'May contain...' disclaimer would now be placed on ALL of their own brand products. This lit the touch paper of readers' annoyance and at the last count there were 228 comments on this post. 

    Although Tesco tried to field questions and give clear answers, some of their responses gave cause for concern. At one point, another Tesco representative didn't seem to understand that there is a difference between peanuts (technically a legume, not a nut) and tree nuts. The company seemed to suggest that their 'May contain nuts' disclaimer will include peanuts as well as tree nuts (this added to the confusion, because of course this is not the case).

    Why does this matter? Because children with food allergies are required to follow a restricted diet, and if they can tolerate tree nuts or peanuts, then that's a useful way for parents to sneak extra protein into their diet. So it IS important to make a distinction between peanuts and tree nuts in a product. And bonus points to those manufacturers that go one step further by also clarifying the type of tree nut/s it may have come into contact with too.

    It's crucial that we keep chipping away at the misconceptions that exist about food allergies. This sort of confusion is worrying, and reaffirms the need for education across the board (looks like the online allergy workshop for schools that I'm creating this year will be beneficial not just to children, but adults too).

    To recap the changes in EU legislation and labelling laws coming into effect from December this year, you can read this previous  blog post. Louise at Nutmums has also put together some useful nut-specific information too.

    And I'm curious; what do you do about 'May contain' disclaimers on products? Are you über cautious and avoid all products mentioning traces of nuts? Or do you get your Sherlock hat on, call manufacturers and ask for specific information about the product and what the 'may contain' statement actually means?

    Let me know in the comments box below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

    comments powered by Disqus