Life got very crazy last week so I did not have my usual output of blog posts, but now I'm back with some darn good news about the increasing availability of nut-free baked goods at the supermarket.
Here's the deal: a few weeks ago a Nut-Free Mom reader contacted me about mini cupcakes she'd found at a local Chicago supermarket chain, Jewel. (This chain is now owned by the Minnesota company, SuperValu).
The cupcakes in question arrive in packs of 12 and a sticker on either the front or back of the the packaging reads "Made in a Nut-Free Facility."
Of course, my question was, huh? They were still "Jewel Bakery Brand" so how could they be baked in a nut-free facility? I e-mailed Jewel with some questions and I received a phone call from from a wonderfully nice and knowledgeable woman in the corporate office. She explained that the cupcakes are produced in an outside bakery that is nut-free and that uses only safe, "nut-free" ingredients.
She did have a few cautions for me, however. The "nut-free facility" mini cupcakes currently available at Jewel stores only come in a 12-count pack. There is a tray of 30 mini-cupcakes that is not safe--it is repackaged at the store in the regular bakery, and so there is a risk of cross-contact. The regular sized cupcakes are also not safe--just the mini ones.
I was so impressed with the Jewel corporate office and their grasp of cross-contact and nut allergies in general. They provided me with complete product details and also let me know that because of the demand for nut-free bakery items they will probably be offering more selection in the future. By the way, the cupcakes are delicious! My kids are in heaven--my allergic daughter is now able to eat bakery cupcakes for the first time in 6 years. Frankly, we all got a little emotional about it.
After I posted a short note about this on Twitter last week, I got a response from a follower who said that Walmart also offers baked items from a nut-free facility. Anyone else know of nut-free supermarket items baked off-site?
One word of caution--please always verify that an item is safe before buying it. For example, in the case of the Jewel cupcakes, the 12-count were safe but the 30-count were not. Also, a label that says "nut-free" is not necessarily safe and baked in a nut-free facility. Jewel sells brownies that are labeled "nut-free," but that only means that the brownies don't contain nuts. The Jewel rep said there is still cross-contact risk for their baked goods--unless the label says "baked in a nut-free facility."
Check before you buy, but hey--things are looking up! I never thought I'd see safe, nut-free cupcakes at the supermarket.