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Standardized practices and labelling

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By Helen on Sat, 12-16-00, 00:27

Two recent calls to manufacturers reminded me how frustrating it is for consumers to made good judgments about safe/unsafe foods for food-allergic people.

I recently spoke to Elizabeth in consumer relations at Odwalla about their food bars. I had hoped these might be a healthier and safer alternative to granola bars. They produce carrot, cranberry and other bars, as well as a peanut butter bar. None of the bars say "may contain". Elizabeth said they produce the peanut butter bar on the same line, but they use standard manufacturing processes to clean the equipment and that there would be a "one in a skillion" (her number; I can't count that far!) chance of cross-contamination. They did not feel it necessary to state "may contain" or "manufactured on the same equipment" because they feel the risk is so tiny and because they feel this language is an "out" for manufacturers not to use as much care in cleaning their equipment.

Around Halloween, I called Hershey because my kid got two Kit Kat bars, one with a "manufactured in same facility" warning and another without. Hershey explained that this is a change for Kit Kat only, and that for a time consumers will find bars with both types of labels. They felt this is a piece of information consumers should have.

It's good manufacturers will tell us what their practices are but it's hard for consumers to evaluate what that risk really means. I recall a thread referencing a study on the risk, but I don't believe it stated whether best practices were used.

My questions:

Does "may contain" etc. let manufactuers slide on their cleaning?
Should consumers advocate for standard practices in addition to better labelling; if best practices are used, what is the risk?
Should there be a standard for the use of "may contain" so in this litigious society, it doesn't pop up everywhere?

Any thoughts?

Groups: None

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