Lidl is in trouble with the FSA and has recalled some of the Honey Peanuts because the word ‘peanuts’ does not appear on the pack even though there is a picture of them. And yes…. this is important. Yet again, I am totally with Alex who rightly maintains that rules must be obeyed to the letter where allergies are involved.
This afternoon I got a comment posted on this blog from Jacqui and, because I think it expresses the frustration that I know so many people feel I thought I would post it in the blog rather than just as a comment:
I have, for a long time, been exasperated by allergens and attitudes. It would seem a little mad to have to label a peanut product as containing peanuts but I take the point made here. If you start fudging the rules you are going to get problems.
Here’s an example – I am in Poland and here food is very well labelled and free from issues are generally very well known with very good selections available, especially in supermarkets and, maybe surprisingly, in high street branches of shops similar to Boots (not the same as chemists). However, I shopped in Auchan the other day.
On the meat counter I saw a sort of pate. I got my glasses on and read the label carefully. I couldn’t translate every ingredient – tiny print for a start – but there was no mention of the word ‘gluten’ and in Polish gluten is gluten. Products labeled ‘without gluten’ are labelled ‘Bez glutenu’. As in the UK only specialist foods are labelled as such and you’d have a pretty limited and expensive diet if you restricted yourself to those products only. Anyway I got home and was able, with an Internet connection, to run the label through google translate. Semolina – from wheat.! There was no allergen list showing gluten at all, let alone in bold, although I’d noticed other items of food in that same area had similar labels with the bold allergens clearly demarcated. So was I glad I translated it first! OK, it wouldn’t have killed me but it would have made me ill. Peanuts are another matter as we all know!
However this is not the only problem anyone with allergies faces!
In restaurants poorly trained staff STILL roll their eyes when you ask about gluten and have no idea what your talking about. The local Chinese to me in the UK has a big notice in the window stating that if you have an allergy tell them – I did that! The owner of the shop (who was born and brought up in the uk – this is not a case of misunderstanding) did not even look up, he just shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘There’s nothing.’ So actually that notice is just to SAY they are complying with the law.
And yes, I know there are some truly excellent establishments that are so thorough that it makes the heart sing! Unfortunately bad experiences make me say ‘no, sorry, eating out is not worth the hassle’. I went to a Christmas ‘do’ where the organiser had rung ahead, menu was pre ordered and everybody apparently understood – on the night the staff didn’t have a clue and could care less! In the end most people had finished before I got my meal. I’ll never do THAT again!
Then there’s the incident in Sainsburys Cheltenham. We live, usually, in North Wales. We had gone for an appointment to Cheltenham that afternoon and I was pre loaded with gluten free snacks, not thinking we would be delayed in the motorway for hours. Luckily the person we were meeting was flexible – but then we needed to eat.
Spotting a Sainsbury’s we went in there as it was just too late to be looking in a strange place for a suitable restusrant. On the deli counter there was food clearly labelled with allergens/no allergens. Fine. I asked for what I wanted, and even asked that mine be put separately from my husbands as I can’t eat gluten. The woman then served my husband. I then spotted something else I wanted and it was then I noticed – she was handling all the products WITH THE SAME TONGS! From one to another! I asked her about it and she looked dumfounded – clearly had no idea what I was talking about!!! I said, ‘Don’t EVER do that! You’ll make people ill.’ So she asked if I’d like her to get fresh items from the same display! The whole lot would have been contaminated because she only had one pair of tongs and dipped from one to another! What on earth do they think is the point of labelling allergens when they do not teach their staff how to handle them??
In the end, no matter what the law, no matter what the policy of individual organisations, it is vital that every person working in a food handling establishment understands fully what allergies are and what the result might be if they don’t understand or care! But this is often not the case.
This is not just my experience. I have tales to make your toes curl from people I know.
I’m sorry this is long and angry – a true rant! but I’m tired of dealing with people who think being made ill by something in your food is a joke, or an inconvenience to them. I’m also sorry to say that for all the publicity, all the websites, magazines, awards and stories in the newspapers, a hell of a lot of people still have no clue about allergens and think, if they think at all, that it’s people being faddy and difficult.
While publications like the Sun have ‘fun’ with the headline grabbing incidents like Lidl’s peanuts that attitude will prevail. Thank goodness for some excellent food outlets and their staff who do care very much and are brilliant. Unfortunately they are still very much in the minority.
However, Jacqui did then go on to talk about an ice cream farm she had been to in Cheshire and was so enthusiastic that I asked her more….
This is the place – The Ice Cream Farm in Tattenhall near Chester.