Because of spam, I personally moderate all comments left on my blog. However, because of health issues, I will not be able to do so in the future.

If you have a personal question about LI or any related topic you can send me an email at I will try to respond.

Otherwise, this blog is now a legacy site, meaning that I am not updating it any longer. The basic information about LI is still sound. However, product information and weblinks may be out of date.

In addition, my old website, Planet Lactose, has been taken down because of the age of the information. Unfortunately, that means links to the site on this blog will no longer work.

For quick offline reference, you can purchase Planet Lactose: The Best of the Blog as an ebook on or Almost 100,000 words on LI, allergies, milk products, milk-free products, and the genetics of intolerance, along with large helpings of the weirdness that is the Net.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Good Intentions May Still Hide Allergens

I've posted twice this week on a major investigative report run by the Chicago Tribune, the original story in Hidden Allergens Seldom Recalled and a pat-oneself-on-the-back press release, Enjoy Life Comments on Hidden Allergens.

Here's a self-congratulatory statement very much like that from Earth Life, this one from the renowned upscale grocery chain Whole Foods:

"Good manufacturing practices," the labels stated, were "used to segregate" potential allergens such as tree nuts, soy or milk.

They tried. Yet:
In 2007, a year after the "good manufacturing" label was put on the bars, a child with food allergies had a reaction after eating the candy, which contained tree nuts. Two recalls followed and the label was changed earlier this year.

That's from another piece of the multipart series, in which the Tribune details how difficult it is for any company not using its own private dedicated plants to make such a statement. Whole Foods relied on contractors to make its products, in this case a Swiss chocolate company. That company continued to make different products on the same line, a violation of the claims Whole Foods made.

Earth Life does use dedicated bakeries. Yet it must reply on suppliers for its ingredients. Those suppliers must guarantee their compliance with cross-contamination standards.

That sounds good and is, in fact, as reliable as reasonably possible. No company can both grow all its own ingredients, as well as bake, package, and ship the final products. There are always potential weak links in the chain.

The final line of the Tribune article reads:
Asked why such scrutiny did not catch fundamental problems at the Swiss candy factory, [Whole Foods' director of private brand development, Nona Evans] said, "It's a continual education."

It is. Companies get smarter and better all the time. Consumers know more about what to look for and what questions to ask. The number of children affected by cross-contamination continues to fall.

I'm sure that would be no consolation if it were your child who fell ill. All you as a parent can do is to be glad that the risks are getting smaller. And to ensure that you stay as watchful as need be and as informed as you must be.

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