Allergen-related product recalls are a seemingly weekly occurrence, sadly, but the latest one of Genius Gluten Free Denby Steak Pies seems more significant, somehow – possibly because it’s a major brand, who make very good products, and because the error is a serious one, namely a non gluten-free pie packed into gluten-free pie packaging. That’s an awful lot of gluten in a pie crust.
The Food Standards Agency communicated it on Friday 28th November, and tweeted it that same day.
Coeliac UK did so on Monday 1st December, and did likewise.
The Grocer even gave it some editorial.
Genius did not issue a warning via social media – and still haven’t. A few Twitter users – @JessesGFdiet @stumblingtrout @davidJ_GF – queried the lack of communication through Genius’s own media channels, and were given a stock response to call customer services to find out more about how Genius were responding.
I called. I was given two numbers. I left a message with one. James, their press officer, returned my call this afternoon, took my query – in essence, why hasn’t Genius tweeted? – and got back to me very promptly. A rough outline of our conversation follows:
James: “The main reason is that product recalls tend to be quite complex messages and it can be difficult to communicate them through social media. Doing it through the Food Standards Agency, and through advertising, gives us more space to effectively communicate the full message in a controlled manner.”
Me: “But the FSA issued a tweet – and linked to their site …?”
James: “We gave them the information, and they hosted it and linked to it. The benefit of doing it through them is that it goes not just to the Genius community, but also those who may have bought the product and don’t follow us …. it speaks to the industry and goes out wider.”
Me: “Is it not extending the reach by issuing it also on social media? Why can’t Genius issue a tweet and link to the FSA page, or the Coeliac UK one?”
James: “We’re dealing with messages and enquiries on social media directly, and we’re also running advertising, and speaking to the areas affected through the retailers who have taken the affected stock.”
Me: “Where are you running the ads?”
James: “We’re working on the ads at the moment.”
And that was it.
No, me neither.
Currently on Genius’ stream is a retweet of a complimentary message about their steak pie, which was submitted before the recall, but which feels inappropriate given the circumstances.
I don’t want to single out Genius here, because it is important to stress that this happens (or fails to happen) as a matter of course when it comes to product recalls. It follows a pattern: the FSA communicate it, the charities do likewise, and then advocates – dieticians, those with sensitivities, bloggers and media folk – chip in to spread the word. The brands, the supermarkets, rarely if ever follow suit. I can’t recall a single instance of when a brand or store has.
I have been asking the question for years ….
… and didn’t get a reply back then, haven’t had one since, and still don’t have one now. I rarely give up. But I give up.
5th December Correction: I’m given to understand, thanks to @James_P_Gregory, that the chilli bean pie filling was gluten-containing, not the pie crust. I’ve been unable to locate the product online at the Chapel Foods site or anywhere else, so whether it exists as a product or was created due to a filling error remains a mystery. This is James’s girlfriend’s experience in pictures (below) relayed via a tweet on 1st December.
8th December edit: Thanks to Kevin (@kgollop) for spotting that the Chilli pie seems to be a new launch product, available at Asda and perhaps other outlets.
Recalls bedevil the freefrom food industry and seem to be very hard to get a grip on – levels of recalls across the industry have hardly changed in 20 years! The Anaphylaxis campaign hosted a very interesting day on this very subject a couple of months ago – with one presentation focusing on the use of social media in managing recalls. For more see http://www.freefromfoodsmatter.com/freefrom_manufacture/articles/managing-food-allergy-crisis-ac-conference-10-14.html
Hmm! Interesting! Genius is developing a bad track record as regards these things – I tackled them about soya and milk some months ago and got nowhere. Blogged about it here: http://dairyfreebabyandme.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/dairy-free-gluten-free-pastries-pure.html Hope gluten free folks have better luck!
I'm currently 'tackling' another manufacturer about an issue, and I've also been finding it difficult to get anywhere … although am making progress. I wonder whether larger / better / more popular brands are almost bound to run more often into difficulties simply because of their size, because so many know about them and because the allergen industry is just *difficult* (labelling laws, baking techniques, medical terminology etc etc etc) …. Just a thought!
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