A very brief post as I am just off to catch a plane to Dublin to help launch the new Irish FreeFrom Food Awards!

FM logo - new -07-15 copyAs you may already know, we at FoodsMatter are looking at starting a ‘freefrom’ assurance scheme the purpose of which will be to bring some clarity to the current chaos and confusion surrounding ‘may contain’ labelling. Do these warnings really mean that the food could be dangerous or is the manufacturer just ‘covering their back’? Can you trust a manufacturer who does not use them? Do they actually tell you anything about the risk you might be taking?

Nor is it just the allergic consumer who is frustrated. Good ‘freefrom’ manufacturers who have done everything right as far as allergen control is concerned and who should not, therefore, be using ‘may contain’ warnings, get penalised if they don’t use them as consumers don’t believe they are safe – or have to restrict their market by adding them when they are not needed. And there is no way of differentiating between them and the ‘bad’ manufacturer who does not worry about allergen control and just whacks on a warning – or, who does not worry about allergen control and does not put a warning on at all!!

I will bring you more news of how the project is progressing as we go along – but, for now, I just wanted to alert those of you who are interested, and do not already receive our newsletter, to our survey. It focuses specifically on ‘may contain’ warnings – and will take you, literally, three minutes to fill in….

Not that we seem to be having much difficulty in getting people to do so!  It went live late on Sunday night and within 24 hours we already had nearly 300 responses! I have only glimpsed through them very briefly but the stand out answers tell their own story:

To the question: When you see a ‘may contain warning’ on a food what do you think? it looks like around 60% of respondents have said ‘I am completely confused’.

To the question, ‘does the lack of clarity around ‘may contain’ labelling make you anxious’, a worrying number of people have put ‘extremely anxious’ or ‘very anxious’.

And to that perennial question about how much longer shopping takes when checking out ‘may contain’ warnings I would say that the average comes out at 50% or over.

We will bring you the full results in a couple of weeks when Alex has wrapped a towel around his head and collated them for us but, meanwhile, please add your two pennyworth and fill in the survey!

The purpose of the survey is to convince ‘big business’ that there is a serious problem out there amongst allergic consumers. So the more powerful the statistics we can present them with, the better the chance of convincing them that ‘something has to be done’ and that an assurance scheme of the sort that we are suggesting may be the way forward.

Thank you!



Way back in 1987, just as I was starting work on a major history of English food, my eighteen-month-old son, Jonathan, and his father were diagnosed with dairy intolerances. Back then the alternatives for those on dairy-free diets were few and far between and pretty unappealing so, after some months of experimentation, I launched Berrydales Special Ices, soya based ices which were dairy and additive free – and tasted delicious! While manufacturing the ices I started a newsletter, The Inside Story, about food allergy and food intolerance and, by 1995, it was a quarterly magazine circulating to over 35,000 health professionals. In 2000 The Inside Story, re-named Foods Matter, became a subscription magazine and now all of that information, and much, much more, is accessible on the Foods Matter, Coeliacs Matter and Skins Matter sites and on our two freefrom food sites, FreeFromFoodsMatter and FreeFromRecipesMatter. You can follow me on twitter @FoodsMatter or email me at michelle@foodsmatter.com And, of course, you can also follow the exciting growth of freefrom food by checking out our annual FreeFrom Food Awards celebrating the best and the newest in freefrom foods!

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