Nut another one … two

Further developments regarding the M&S / Kinnerton nut-warning confusion which I blogged about last week.

To recap, M&S Made Without Dairy chocolate – made by Kinnerton – carries a “not suitable for nut allergy sufferers due to manufacturing methods” warning.

A further response from a senior source at M&S has confirmed that the chocolate IS manufactured in the nut-free zone at Kinnerton (they have a non-nut-free zone too). So why the warning?

“We have guidelines around the risk assessment of all allergens and the use of labelling on our chocolate products. Our current position is that nut labelling on chocolate should remain on products manufactured on a site which handles nuts. We carry out a risk assessment before adding an alibi label to a product. It has been our policy to traditionally add nut alibi labelling to all chocolate products due to the potential risk of nut cross-contamination within the process of producing chocolate.”

This response begs a number of questions:

1. If M&S’s current position is that nut labelling should remain on products manufactured on a site which handles nuts – why carry out a risk assessment? If you’re going to put an advisory warning on the product anyway, as this is what you ’traditionally’ do, why bother?

2. Why (see previous blog) did Kinnerton claim dairy was “the only allergen risk reviewed”? This appears to contradict M&S’s claims of having conducted a risk assessment before implementing their on-pack nut-related warning.

3. If M&S are not satisfied enough with the considerable lengths that Kinnerton go to to prevent cross-contamination and maintain controls at their site (you can read them here), despite their earlier claim that they are not undermining the ‘safety and integrity’ of the Kinnerton nut-free promise, then what would satisfy them? You wonder whether they will ever produce nut-free ranges – chocolate or otherwise – for allergic consumers if a company who has made 300 million chocolate products for nut-allergy sufferers and not had one verified nut incident in 15 years cannot reassure them that their “manufacturing methods” are as safe as practically possible for nut allergies.

As Kinnerton say on their site, there are no absolute guarantees in life, and they’re right. M&S seem to want to reach the “100% guarantee .. 100% nut free” that they referred to in their initial correspondence to me. It’s impossible. I suspect, sooner or later, they will have to modify that position because, while they seem to be doing a lot of good work for their coeliac customers, I fear they risk alienating a lot of their food allergy consumers unnecessarily.

11 Comments

  1. Anna D

    Ah is this why the children's chocolate lollipops at M&S (Avengers & Hello Kitty) have a nut allergy warning on but look identical to the Kinnerton ones that my nut allergic son can have?

    Reply
  2. Alex G

    There are some choco lollipops in M&S that I think are made by Kinnerton's too, but not sure if they are the ones – but yes, quite possibly. Frustrating isn't it ….

    Reply
  3. Anna D

    If that is so it is frustrating. The packaging is identical, the only difference is the Kinnerton nut safety logo is replaced by a nut warning symbol. I was worried nut allergy sufferers may buy in error. We are only two years into this and food labelling quickly showed itself as a challenge. I visit food manufacturers with work and I know the lengths some go to with strict allergen controls to minimise cross-contamination. If the retailers are able to over-ride there hard work at will it is doubly frustrating. I will follow with interest if you post further updates on this story.

    Reply
  4. Anna D

    *their

    Reply
  5. Alex G

    Thanks Anna. I will definitely post any further updates if I get them, but am unlikely to actively pursue this further, partly as it's unfortunately very time consuming, as well as frustrating, and partly because I really don't think I can get anything more useful out of either side in this debate, but also partly because a well known allergy mum / advocate is planning on taking up the issue with one or both parties involved.

    Reply
  6. Anna D

    Yes, you must have to choose your battles wisely. Thanks for the info

    Reply
  7. Alexa Baracaia

    That is absolutely outrageous and one for the FSA, surely? There ARE no nuts on site because the factory is segregated. Where is the "significant and demonstrable risk" that FSA guidelines call for to justify precautionary labelling? That's like saying there's a factory with nuts in down the road so we'd better slap a label on. And why the panic over nuts alone? There are other, equally potent allergens, yet M&S appears happy with cross contamination procedures in place not to slap 'may contain egg' or 'milk' over absolutely everything. This smacks of paranoia, not scientific logic and is unacceptable for a major supermarket with all the best testing systems available to it. If they are really going to stick to their ridiculous line then DO THE TESTING. I'm going to submit a formal complaint to the Food Standards Agency on this one. Thanks Alex for all your digging….

    Reply
  8. Alex G

    Hadn't considered the other allergens in this mix at all! There are so many puzzling facets to this story. Over to you, Alexa – good luck and keep us posted.

    Reply
  9. Anne Walsh

    Well done for taking them to ask over this, it is absolutely ridiculous that they are overriding the Kinnerton nut free promise!

    Reply
  10. Alex G

    It does seem so … but I guess there could be stuff we don't know about, that neither party is telling us. So difficult to know. Thanks, though!

    Reply
  11. Pingback: Nut another one … | Allergy Insight

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