On 1st April, I was on twitter and I saw a link to the following thread on facebook:
It is not so much the question itself that people were upset or angry about but Tesco’s response.
I couldn’t believe it, here were Tesco customer service agents saying that due to new EU labelling laws all products will now be labelled as ‘may contain nuts’ and admitting to a blanket may contain nuts across all their products. Here’s some of what Tesco had to say:
I’m really sorry that you’re upset by this. However, we now put this disclaimer on all of our products.
We have changed our labels due to new Government legislation that is coming into action in December 2014.
As a responsible retailer, we have taken the decision to change our labeling before the legislation is enforced.
We also state clearly in bold or italic font that there are 14 recognised allergies under the EU and these are all now labeled, such as MILK, NUTS, EGGS and WHEAT.
What utter rubbish! On reading this my first thought was that the customer service agents just haven’t been trained properly on the new allergy labelling and that some big manager would come along and sort it all out the next day during business hours and an apology would be issued. Twitter was hopping, the allergy community were going mad. How dare a big supermarket which many allergy sufferers rely on for their free from products decide on a whim to cover themselves and be lazy and slap a may contain nuts onto everything. This sort of happened but the backlash against Tesco continued.
I sent the following message on the Tesco facebook page myself on April 2nd, the following day.
This was 180 turn from what they had said the night before. New shift new staff on of course. This could’ve been the end of it but it drew attention to just how many of Tesco’s own brand products carried a may contain warning. Tweets popped up in my twitter feed with photos of may contain nuts labels on carrots, sweet potatoes, vegetable bites, orange juice and other random foods that you wouldn’t associate with nuts at all. What is even worse is that prior to the new EU labelling appearing on the Tesco own brand products, these same products did not carry a nut warning. The Facebook thread as you can see is still active today (20th April), with the conversation going around in circles. This thread was in relation to a new free from chocolate buttons, free from dairy but may contain nuts. Fair enough, a new product. However, it was their response and the fact that they admitted to putting a blanket ‘may contain nuts’ on all Tesco own brand products when they changed the packaging for the new regulations.
First of all, may contain warnings have not changed at all with the new labelling laws. See my post on this here.
Secondly, I think they didn’t realise the backlash they would face from the allergy community. The community is very strong, very vocal, usually because they have to be. We are lucky in our house to have no issue with nuts, but if a large supermarket chain can decide to do that with nuts what’s to stop them putting a may contain dairy or wheat on everything too, thus alienating us from shopping there too. An allergy family may just have one child with an allergy, but they aren’t going to shop in a store if they can’t buy everyone’s shopping there. So therefore they are alienating a lot more of the population than they may have realised. Also, a nut allergy can be life or death. It’s not a mere few words, ‘may contain nuts’. It means ALL the foods with those labels can not now be consumed by anyone with a nut allergy. They are also not differentiating between peanuts, tree nuts etc., so if something may contain almonds for example it could be OK for someone, but if it says may contain nuts they have to avoid it anyway.
This is a very disappointing stance for Tesco to be taking. One mother of a nut allergic child has created a petition to stop Tesco’s sweeping may contain nuts labelling. You can find it here:
Stop using blanket ‘may contain nuts’ labels
You can read more about this issue on the following sites:
The Grocer.co.uk: Tesco defends ‘may contain nuts’ labels after backlash
Independent.co.uk:Tesco’s nut-warning labelling madness
The Guardian Why has Tesco suddenly changed nut allergy information on its products?