I already knew that many Trader Joe's packaged foods are not safe for the nut-allergic, but now here's a new one to add to the list: chopped romaine lettuce.
Just goes to show you always need to read the label. I picked up the bag in the photo to your left and blithely threw it into my shopping cart without giving it a glance, because after all, it's just lettuce, right? It wasn't until I got home I happened to see the allergy warning on the package. I'm very cautious with label reading ordinarily ,but lettuce did not strike me as a potentially cross-contaminated food.
As you may be able to make out from the photo, TJ's is claiming that their chopped romaine lettuce is processed on the same lines as wheat, milk, eggs, tree nuts and soy. And that it's processed in the same facility as peanuts.
At first I thought this was an overly inclusive label (and it may be--I just don't know.) We've talked about those a lot here and many of you have brought this up on your blogs or in comments. Hopefully, the FDA is working right now to make "real" allergy labels. Remember the comments they asked for in January? That's what they want to know. What makes an allergy label useful--what makes it overly inclusive or an unnecessary hindrance to allergic consumers?
I suppose that processed lettuce could have been exposed to all of the above allergens--croutons, dressings and sometimes tree nuts are included in bags of salad. I have no choice but to go with what the label says and so I can't even serve chopped romaine from TJ's to my daughter anymore. It's kind of a blow--I like the produce there and it's usually cheap!
As the salmonella outbreaks have shown us, many companies care more about liability and bottom line than they do about consumers' health, so if TJ truly wants to protect the food allergic, that's great. I'm not sure what this label is doing there or if it's overly inclusive (and if it is, I'm irritated), but for now I'll have to take their word for it.
For any packaged vegetables or fruits, we have to be wary. For example, today I was going to buy Green Giant branded frozen spinach. As I reached for the box, I saw Green Giant green beans with almonds right next to it. I put the box down. The label did not have an allergy warning, but I don't know how they're processing their foods until I ask them. Looks like I'll be contacting the company--I'll let you know what I discover.
It looks like even chopped salad is now in the realm of foods that nut-allergic families have to look out for. And my guess is, as food allergy labels evolve, some of our old standbys will get even more new labels. Now is the time to take another look at the foods we buy.