Why Lidl are not nuts

Lidl has recalled some batches of their Alesto Honey Peanuts because the word ‘peanuts’ does not appear on the label, as is required by Law.

This echoes a recall of over three years ago by Booths, who withdrew some peanut products labelled ‘monkey nuts’ rather than ‘peanuts’ – a recall which was widely criticised, including by then RCGP chair Clare Gerada, but which, like this one, was absolutely correct, and which I defended here.

In the Lidl case, the word for peanut only appeared in Spanish and Portuguese, but not English. Nevertheless, Clause 30 from the FSA Guidance on Allergen and Miscellaneous Labelling Provisions is worth quoting once again as it still applies:

Whilst these may also be commonly referred to as ground nuts or monkey nuts, the term “peanuts” [their emphasis] should be used for allergen labelling purposes

Not unexpectedly, some casual observers and commentators are ridiculing the decision on social media. I’m surprised the Sun didn’t have more fun with it, but perhaps they were unaware these were EU laws they could have gleefully trashed.

I’m repeating myself, but allergen labelling laws are there to protect consumers and to save lives. They must be stuck to by the letter, for any relaxation of the rules undermines the rules, and from there it’s a slippery slope downwards towards confusion and inconsistency and health risk.

The rule is ‘peanut(s)’ must appear on labels. If you think it’s silly to abide by this rule, then I’d be very interested to hear what you think the alternative rule should be? “‘Peanuts’ should appear on labels unless there’s a nice picture of them on the front”? 

An adult peanut allergic, long used to managing their condition, would be unlikely to make a mistake with the Lidl product, but what about a foreigner? What about a well-meaning relative of a peanut allergic child? Again, an error is unlikely, but not impossible, though a bigger problem in this case is that the product may contain traces of tree nuts – a fact which also does not appear in English. We cannot take chances.

Although there have arguably been too many allergen recalls this year (see here, including another Lidl one concerning a yogurt failing to mention ‘milk’ on the label), one such as this does offer continuing reassurance to the food allergic community that manufacturers, supermarkets and the FSA are on the ball regarding the issue.

Although there may well be room for improvement, the rules are in decent health, and appear to be working well. We should be pleased about this, not sneery, nor mocking, nor sarcastic.

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