Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Food Allergy News: Are Ocean Spray Craisins Nut-Free?

With food allergen labeling all over the map, it's always good to do your research on a product. Because my kids like dried fruit, I noticed while shopping one day that Ocean Spray Craisins say "peanut-free" on the bag. However, I also noticed that the company makes trail mix containing tree nuts, which are another group of allergens we need to avoid. Peanuts have definitely made it onto food companies' radar, but tree nuts, not so much even though they are one of the most common and potentially life-threatening food allergens.

I contacted the company for more info and was very happy with the following response:

"February 24, 2011

Hello Jenny,

Thanks for contacting us over here at Ocean Spray, where we pride ourselves on 80 years of taking great care in harvesting and manufacturing our products. It’s nice to hear from people who are as into cranberries as much as we are.

All of our products are produced in facilities and equipment that are free of nuts, dairy, and eggs. The production equipment is cleaned and sterilized between each production run. Thus, there is no risk of cross contamination between any of our products. We are currently marketing a selection of Trail Mixes, which contain mixed nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate. Those products are packaged in separate facilities, apart from our standard products

It was good to know that the trail mix is not made in the same facility as the plain Craisins, aka dried cranberries.

With this in mind, here's one of our favorite family cookie recipes. We recently added Craisins to this and everyone loved it--plus it packs a little more nutrition into the cookie. I know I've offered chocolate chip and oatmeal granola bars recently, so Craisins would be a nice addition to those as well.

The Nut-Free Mom's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Craisin Cookies

3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine, (1 stick) softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar (I like dark brown)
1 large egg
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned or quick cooking oats, uncooked
3/4 cup chocolate chips (I use Hershey's semi sweet or Vermont Nut-Free)
1/4 cup Ocean Spray Craisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, with mixer set a medium, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla just until combined. Reduce speed to low and gradually stir in flour, just until blended. At low speed mix in oatmeal, chocolate chips and Craisins.

Drop dough by heaping tablespoons (I use a mini ice cream scoop for this), 2 inches apart, on two ungreased large cookie sheets. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes, rotating cookie sheets between upper and lower oven racks halfway through baking. With wide spatula, transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Repeat with remaining dough. Makes about 24 cookies.


Trista said...

Thanks for checking on this and sharing, as my nut allergic son loves craisons as well.I can't wait to try your cookie recipe!

Deirdre said...

Thank you for checking! I like the response- it seemed forthright and informed.

AmberY said...

I recently contacted them as well after my husband had come home from work saying he'd tried the ones that are blueberry and cherry flavored at work and wanted to see about buying some. I'm always up for finding new snacks my son (peanut allergic/avoids tree nuts) can have. We went ahead and purchased them because if all else failed I'd send them straight to work with the hubby but was super pleased to hear they were safe for my little guy too. AND he actually liked them, bonus, lol.

Lindsay said...

Thank you for the information! I've always wondered about Craisins, because I absolutely love them in salads, in cookies, and in my own trail mix and popcorn mix (peanut and tree nut free, of course!) Now I feel completely safe eating them. I appreciate your legwork, Jenny!

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Anonymous said...

Have wanted to know if deep fried restaurant food is safe if not done in peanut/nut oil? Can french fries get contaminated if fried in same non-peanut oil if other foods with nuts were fried in it? Can't find anything on the web with an answer.

Jenny said...

Of course that can happen--you would need to ask the restaurant how they handle that. If there are potentially nutty foods going into the fryer, I would avoid fried foods.

Anonymous said...

BEWARE: If you have an allergy to SUNFLOWER OIL do not eat Craisins! They do not list it, but they use it and I had an allergic reaction to it. Also, people who tend to have allergies to almonds, may also be allergic to sunflower oil. I will no longer purchase Ocean Spray products as a food allergy sufferer because they do not list what is really on their products.

Jenny said...

Hi Allergy Mom, Sounds like a scary experience! I just want to clarify a few things for those new dealing with nut allergies.

First of all, almond allergies do not always indicate a sunflower seed allergy. For anyone concerned about seeds, ask your doctor. Our daughter is almond allergic but eats sunflower products, for example.

Please follow up your phone call with a letter to the company. Sadly, some customer service reps give out inaccurate information. It's happened to me before. I like written statements better because people have time to do the research for me when they respond.

Lastly, FDA law requires ingredients to be listed if they are part of a food product. So while sunflower is not considered a "top 8" allergy in the U.S. and does not have to be "called out" or spelled out, it would have to say that some type of oil was an ingredient on the label. If you look at other varieties of Ocean Spray Craisins, they have multiple ingredients listed. That's the law--they can't throw in sunflower oil or any ingredient without listing it. I'm not sure what the rep meant by "it's not really an ingredient" which leads me to believe that the rep may have been not completely informed on the product.

Obviously you had a conversation with a rep that concerned you and I appreciate your sharing it.

Anonymous said...

My bag of craisins, which I have in front of me right now, clearly states "Refined sunflower oil is used as a processing aid" directly below the ingredients. I don't know when they started putting it on the bag, but it's there, and in big enough type to read easily.

Jenny said...

Yes, my bag of Craisins states that too. They have added this recently, I think in the last 6 months or so. I don't know what "processing aid" means but I'm glad they have put it on there for complete ingredient disclosure if it's a concern. Thanks for sharing this information.

A quick note to those new to nut allergies: a tree nut or peanut allergy does not necessarily indicate an allergy to sunflower seeds. Please consult your allergists and respect your own allergy tests/reactions before giving your child any new food. Thank you!