Monday, November 9, 2009

Way to Go, Wonka!

Four weeks ago, I wrote about calling the Wonka candy manufacturing company to ask about their labeling (see “Reading Halloween Candy Labels for Fun and Profit”) because I found bags of the same Halloween-sized candy at different stores that were labeled differently – one bag had cross-contamination warnings, and the other didn’t. When I called, the man who answered was really helpful. He read me information about the Wonka allergen protocols and asked if he could send me a letter explaining it in more detail, along with some coupons. I said sure.

Many times, when I call a food manufacturer to ask about food allergies, the person who answers is truly stumped. Other times, the person simply reads the ingredients label and says, “Well, it doesn’t look like it has peanuts.” (Thanks, I can read labels myself.) It’s rare that a company actually goes to the effort to 1) have a stringent food allergy protocol, and 2) inform their customer support about that protocol.

So mucho props to Wonka (a division of Nestlé) for understanding the seriousness of food allergies, for having a protocol that they document and follow, and for making a real effort to inform their customers about it. I’m sure they won’t mind me posting their letter, since they send it out to customers who ask. I’m just helping spread their news. Thanks, Wonka! (And all other food manufacturers, take note.)

Dear Ms. Lindberg,

Thank you for contacting us. Your comments regarding Wonka® Mix-Ups are very important to us.

In regards to your inquiry, there are eight major food allergens, including milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts and almonds), soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Labeling regulation requires that all ingredients added to products be listed in the ingredient statement. For those eight major allergens, Nestlé ensures that they are labeled, regardless of the amount or whether a supplier may have added it to their ingredient. It is the responsibility of Nestlé to ensure that these ingredients are properly labeled by their common or usual name in the ingredient statement.

We want to help our consumers avoid inadvertent ingestion of their specific allergens of concern by accurately informing them about the product ingredients and by following Good Manufacturing Practices in our factories. All factories using a critical allergen as an ingredient must take all reasonable precautions to avoid cross-contact of products that do not normally contain these allergens and products that do not carry a specific mention in the ingredient statement. These precautionary measures include efficient cleaning of production lines and equipment and strict separation of materials that may contain critical allergens. If an allergen does not appear on the ingredient statement, then it has not been added to the product and the likelihood of cross-contamination contact is so extremely low that the risk is insignificant.

We appreciate the opportunity to be of service to you and hope your inquiry was handled to your satisfaction.

Consumer Response Representative

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