‘Last week I did my weekly shopping online from Ocado as usual. In the past my gluten-free food has been packaged separately from anything containing gluten. But this week it arrived with a bag of ‘normal’ flour in the same carrier bag as the gluten-free goods. Obviously, I can’t use any of the food as it might be contaminated – so it all went in the bin. I find this a worrying situation for a coeliac. I know you cannot guarantee anything will be kept separately through the food chain, but a dusty bag of flour and the risk of cross contamination is totally unacceptable to a caterer (especially one with Gluten-Free Accredition) or a coeliac.
I messaged Ocado and this was their response:
‘Thank you for taking the time to get in contact with me.
I apologise for the trouble this causes you, regrettably it isn’t part of our practice to separate these items. I’m not sure if we have the facility to make specific packing requests.
However I will contact our Trading department for you to see if there is anything I can arrange for you. I will get back in contact with you the second I hear from them.’
Julia had emailed us to ask whether anything is expected of on-line delivery services to minimise the risks of contamination when they deliver ‘freefrom’ food – and whether they had any training or protocols for staff to follow when handling ‘freefrom’ food. As she said, it seems to make a bit of a mockery of all the effort that she and those like her go to if supermarkets and delivery services don’t bother about contamination at all!
And she has a good point.
Right now I very much doubt that there are any protocols in place for the handling of ‘freefrom’ food on delivery services. It would not be part of any regulations so, if there were to be any protools, they would be voluntary on the part of the company. I suspect that Ocado’s, and indeed any other delivery service’s response would be that their remit was to deliver food, not to deliver ‘freefrom’ food. So they cannot make any claims/guarantees/promises about any of the food the food they delivered.
However, that does not mean that this attitude cannot, and should not, change….
The delivery of an order of freefrom foods packed in a bag with non-freefrom products (such as bags of ‘normal’ flour) does make a nonsense of Julia’s efforts. But it also makes a nonsense of supermarkets’ and other ‘freefrom’ retailers’ efforts to supply their customers with ‘freefrom’ foods. And it should not be that difficult a problem to address.
Just looking at my Ocado delivery, there are already several different bags there – fresh, frozen, store cupboard etc – all with the appropriate goods in them. So how hard would it be to add a gluten-free and a dairy-free bag and to fill them appropriately? Come on supermarkets – complete the job!