There was been a huge outcry on social media and elsewhere recently over gluten contamination that occurred in the Genius factory. It triggered a whole slew of products recalls not only of Genius products but of supermarket freefrom lines manufactured by Genius. I missed most of it as I was away and although smart phones are wonderful things, there is a limit to the amount that you want to read on them! However, I was asked for a comment by the Grocer and, for what it is worth, this is what I said:
It is always disappointing when a ‘freefrom’ company fails to deliver on what they promise and it is reasonable for the consumer to be both concerned and upset by this. However, I think the issue in this case needs to be kept in proportion:
• The contamination levels where traced were all very low, way below the 200ppm level that, until 2012 was the threshold for a gluten-free declaration. It is therefore unlikely that, even if they did eat a contaminated product, a coeliac consumer would have suffered much in the way of a reaction.
• The company, Genius, came out at once with a warning and a product withdrawal, thus minimising any risk to the consumer – and have been completely upfront about the problem and how it arose – a contaminated ingredient.
• Coeliac consumers should understand that however distressing a contamination issue and product withdrawal may be for them it is infinitely more damaging for the company concerned both in reputational and financial terms. As a result companies go to very great lengths to avoid any such thing happening. So I think consumers can be very sure that whatever systems failed in this instance they will now be thoroughly overhauled to ensure that no such thing happens again.
In a subsequent discussion with Sue Cane we also agreed that although the ripples from this Genius withdrawal went far and wide, the real contamination danger for coeliacs (and for allergics) was more likely to come from small companies whose protocols and risk management systems were less sophisticated so the chances of mistake are much higher. But, even though the contamination level might be much higher, because the company’s output is small, the number of products and people affected will also be much smaller and the ripples are unlikely even to reach the local media or more than the occasional ‘Twitter-er’. Food allergics and coeliacs should bear this in mind when drawing up their shopping lists!
As regards any future purchase of Genius products, I think everyone can be very sure that, in the aftermath of the storm, every possible contamination loophole will have been hunted down and their systems triple checked to prevent any such thing happening again.