My family has a new breakfast cereal (thanks to one of my Nut-Free Mom readers, Missy, who pointed it out to me): Quaker Whole Hearts. Recently, I chose to give up the plain Multi-Grain Cheerios after the introduction of the Peanut Butter Multi-Grain Cheerios. (General Mills said (both in e-mails, their Facebook page and over the phone) that the plain were still "safe" but wouldn't reveal specifics about manufacturing procedures and that is something outside of my comfort level. Peanut Butter Multi-Grain Cheerios look just like the plain Multi-Grain, too, so that was a concern to me with regard to accidental mix ups during production.) You can read more about this in an earlier post.
I like to have a healthy and nutritious cereal for my kids--they don't just eat it for breakfast, but my oldest (with peanut and tree nut allergies) likes it for snacks, too.
Quaker Whole Hearts to the rescue! These are lightly sweetened and made from whole grain. And they are in a distinctive heart shape, which makes them easily identifiable from other, possibly unsafe cereals. It's a win-win. AND they taste great. We "heart" them. (Sorry, couldn't resist).
But the clincher is Quaker's approach with regard to disclosure about practices. The reader who told me about this cereal on my Facebook wall, only shared this after a conversation with Quaker. Here's what she had to say: "Peanut and tree nut cereals are manufactured on dedicated lines! Cookies, bars, instant oatmeal, etc, are manufactured in other parts of the huge plant, or in separate plants.
So cereals that contain peanuts and tree nuts would have a dedicated line. The company does NOT use manufactured on shared equipment, or in a shared facility statements...but they DO use MAY CONTAINS statements if there is a chance for cross-contamination, as in using shared lines."
Including "may contains" is important because it means just that: the item "might" contain an allergen due to the way it is manufactured. More from the Quaker website: "Between the production of flavors that contain peanuts or tree nuts and those that do not contain these ingredients, the line is shut down and thoroughly cleaned. Due to the complexity of some of the equipment, it may be difficult to clean some areas completely. Trace amounts of peanuts and/or tree nuts may be left behind in these hard to reach areas. Because we realize the seriousness of food allergies and because we are concerned about the health of our consumers, we feel it is our obligation to warn consumers about the possibility of trace amounts of peanuts or tree nuts since other products share production lines."
This statement is included on the FAQs page regarding the Quaker snack bars. Some flavors of the Quaker snack bars contain peanut; the flavors that don't still have the allergy warning. So it appears that Quaker is acknowledging that trace amounts can trigger reactions and they are labeling accordingly.
I appreciate the allergen awareness disclosure but, of course, that doesn't mean mistakes can't happen. Everyone, please do your own checking if you have more questions. For me, at least, when a company confronts the food allergy question head on and explains their practices about labeling in this way, it does give you more confidence about using the product.
Anyone else try this cereal? What do you think?