Last year, The Chicago Tribune published a series of stories about hidden allergens in foods. Among them were chocolate bars sold at Whole Foods and at that time, marked as nut-free due to "good manufacturing practices." That wasn't true and the Tribune followed many food suppliers and their labels to find alarming inaccuracies.
Last Friday, the paper published an update of this story. You can read the short blurb by clicking this link. Scroll down until you see the heading Allergens. There is a lot of good news for allergic consumers--many of the foods in question have been removed from the Whole Foods shelves, for example. Others companies have pulled product and promised to label the foods accurately.
I get asked about food labels a lot and the fact is, as I just posted about in my recent ice cream post--food labels are random and not policed in many cases. Some companies really have their act together with regard to food allergies--but so many don't.
My best advice is to steer clear of high risk foods if you have any doubts. The old "when in doubt, do without" rule works when labels don't. High risk foods for nut allergies can include chocolate, candy, many ethnic foods, baked goods and baking ingredients.
Always, always ask the company if you don't know what's in their food. If they seem glib or uncertain, avoid their products. Even if they're convincing, you need to do your homework by being aware of who owns the company, what other products they make and what their understanding of "nut-free" is. To some it means a nut-free facility. To others, it means no nuts in the final product. We need to find out where food companies stand and asking them shows them we care.
Still, it's great to know that the Tribune investigation helped pull unsafe foods for food allergies and intolerances. Newspapers are suffering throughout the country but this proves how much they're needed.
One other piece of good consumer news, courtesy of Jennifer of Food Allergy Buzz. Nut-free candy corn is here! A & J Nut-Free Bakery now sells this online. It's made in the U.S. in a nut-free facility. Finally! Go to http://www.foodallergybuzz.com/ for more info.