Monday, March 15, 2010

Nut-Free Cupcakes at the Supermarket (No, Really!)

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.


Ug said...

I just wanted to say Thank You for blogging! My 2 year old daughter was recently diagnosed with a severe peanut and tree nut allergy. I'm still in the overwhelmed state, but I am finding it really helpful to read through blogs like yours. Goldmine of things to think about! One of the hardest things is my new task of baking EVERYTHING. Looking forward to a world full of nut-free cupcakes. (A girl can hope!)

Jenny said...

Hi, glad you're finding this blog helpful. :) You're right--baking everything is very hard, that's why I'm so excited about finding safe bakery items.

I think we can count on more nut-free and safe foods simply because our numbers are growing and stores like to keep customers coming back.

Thanks for posting!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info. Have not seen these yet but wondering do the 30 count cupcakes have the nut free label? Thanks.

Also, do you know of nut-free ice-cream novelties that have ice-cream and chocolate? Not looking for the juice popsicles. Thank you!

Jenny said...

I don't think the 30-count will have the nut-free label--according to the Jewel corporate person I spoke with, they would not be labeled that way. I'll double check.

As far as ice cream bars--great question. I don't know of any ice cream facilities that use dedicated lines. Look up ice cream on my blog for some posts I wrote about ice cream for a further discussion.

Ice cream and ice cream bars are tricky. Some companies use extensive cleaning practices for their equipment but if you want specific allergen info on a product you're interested in, I'd suggest calling the company and asking them how they handle allergens at their facilities.

I will have some more info about ice cream in coming weeks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip - found the 12 count mini cupcakes and my daughter was soooo happy (too bad they use bright frostings that stain though!). Also bought some Duncan Hines cake mixes and the labels had an allergy section but did not indicate if made on lines with nuts - do you know about their labeling practices (still waiting for an answer). Do you know of safe cake mixes and frostings that are nut-free and not on nut-lines? Thanks!

Jenny said...

Cherrybrook Kitchens is an allergy-free line of cake mixes and frostings.

I admit that I mostly bake from scratch, so I do not have a listing for each and every cake mix and frosting out there--and anyway that is a pretty extensive list. When I do buy cake mixes, I've noticed that some Betty Crocker, Pilsbury and Duncan Hines brands are safe for nut allergies. Some specific items are not and that will be stated on the label. Since labels change often, I always advise readers to look at the current labels before making a purchase. Have the specific item name and UPC code ready.

Nut-less for years said...

Hi, I've had a nut and shellfish allergy my entire life.(I'm currently 24) I want you to know that parents aren't just thankful, I am too. I have found through my many years of trial and error that it's true reading labels and asking is very important. Teaching your child to do it for them self is even more important because schools can be a difficult place for a child with allergies, and you cant be there for them. My parents taught me very young and I haven't had an allergic reaction since the third grade. And if your shocked and in disbelief, I am still very allergic. To stay on topic, baking everything you eat not only makes you and your child feel comfortable about eating, but also it makes you appreciate it that much more. PS. I love chocolate and would probably be 100 pounds heavier if I could eat all the chocolate bars that may contain PPS. A great place for chocolate for someone that has nuts (including baking chocolate and fudge) is Vermont chocolates. And Sunbutter is a great peanut butter substitute. Sorry I ramble but I'm passionate about the topic. My last comment is to thank all of you parents that log on to the site because you are your child's safe place in a nutty world and visiting this site is just one thing that will make them appreciate you so much later. We understand what you give up.

Anonymous said...

Hi!! I just wanted to let you know that there is a great new nut free bakery in Mass. It is called We're Not Nuts Bakery and they are fabulous!! It is so great to have a delicious nut free place to go to!!

Anonymous said...

I live in Canada and we have champans ice cream that is made in a nut free facility. Read their site and contact them about coming to the states!

Jenny said...

Thanks for the Chapman's tip: I have read about them and it sounds fabulous!