Nut allergic families distraught at Alpro's defensive 'may contain' warnings

Author: Foods Matter

Date: FEB 2014

Families with nut allergic children are distraught as Alpro put 'may contain nut' warnings on their soya products thus, effectively, preventing these families from buying them.

  • Huge implications for allergic children who rely on Alpro products for their calcium needs
  • Massive cost impact for the NHS, which will be forced to prescribe junior milks costing more than £250 per child per month
  • Nurseries, schools, hospitals will be forced to reconsider use of Alpro soya products because of the warning label
  • Alpro makes own brand soya products for many leading supermarkets, too

How come?

Alpro are moving the production of their almond and hazel nut milks into the factory which currently produces all of their soya products. The allergen control measures they intend to implement are so stringent that they more than meet the Food Standards Agency's criteria for NOT needing to use defensive 'may contain' warnings. None the less, they are adding 'this product may contain traces of almond and hazel nut' warnings to their soya milks.

Why does this matter?

Because for children who are nut allergic (around one million in the UK), and even more for children who are nut and dairy allergic, Alpro products are one of the very few foods that they can eat. Not only are they safe but they are nutritious, easy to find and relatively cheap.

They are calcium fortified, which is vital for allergic children – and Alpro has 100% share of the junior soya milk market. Alpro's follow on milk for toddlers, Junior 1+, it is the only non-dairy product on the market with an appropriate nutritional profile for that age group. If these children cannot have Junior 1+ they will have to go back onto extremely expensive amino acid infant formula costing the NHS over £250 per month per child.

Not only do parents buy the Alpro products but they are widely used in schools, and through out the food service industry thereby enormously widening these children’s opportunities for socialising relatively ‘normally’.

Once they carry a nut warning, no allergic family - and no institution dealing with allergic children or adults - will use them.

Why? Because ‘may contain’ warnings are so unspecific (they do not indicate the degree of risk that might be involved) that, as a matter of principle, nut allergic families and those catering for them do not use products with 'may contain' warnings. Moreover, they teach their children never to eat products which carry a may contain warning.

Why have Alpro chosen to do this?

They maintain that, as an ‘ethical’ company they need to be transparent and inform their customers of the change in their production methods – and that, until their production is up and running they will not know whether it is really as safe as they hope so they cannot take any chances….

But, as an 'ethical' company should they not also have considered the distress that their decision would cause to an already vulnerable and disadvantaged group of families? Especially when the risk against which these families are to be warned will be so small that even the relevant regulating body sees no need for a warning.

Dire public relations

The situation has been further exacerbated by Alpro’s complete failure to interact with either their allergic customers or the bodies that represent them – and the fact that they have already printed, and are using, the new ‘warning’ packs even though production of nut milks in the soya factory does not start for another year!

Parents of nut-allergic children have set up a Facebook campaign, AlproSOS (Save Our Soya).

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