Sunday, November 11, 2007

Nabisco versus Bachman: a consumer's grump

I emailed both pretzel companies recently, asking about nuts, dairy, sesame, etc (the Eldest's allergy list), whther these ingredients were used in their products, on shared equipment with products that didn't have the allergens I listed, or simply in the same facility. I've written this email many, many times before, and frankly nowadays I write it with a certain measure of skepticism. I rarely get a good response (With the exception of Amy's Kitchen and gDiapers, they were extraordinary in their response to me.)

Here are the responses I recieved. Please note that this is not a suggestion that you buy these products, if you share any of the Eldest's allergies - ingredient lists change regularly, and you should always check. Instead, I'm offering this as an example of how things can - and how they usually do - work in this sort of exchange.

Bachman said:

The Bachman pretzels are egg and nut free. We distribute nuts and peanut butter filled pretzels, but we do not produce them. Our pretzel facility does have dairy, poppy and sesame seeds in the plant. We do have two dedicated lines that do not use dairy or seeds and are in a separate location in the plant. The following pretzels would be safe for your child:

Thin'n Rights Fat Free
Thin'n RightsPetites or

If you need any further information, please e-mail me at


Debra Facciolli
The Bachman Company
Quality Assurance Manager

The Mama says: Bravo! Clearly responded, well done.

Nabisco said:

If there is an allergenic protein in a product due to the presence of sesame seed, sunflower seed, poppy seed and/or cottonseed, it will be stated on the ingredient line. If the seed is processed in such a way as to remove the allergenic protein (e.g sunflower oil that has been refined, bleached and deodorized), and is part of a natural flavor then it does not need to be added to the ingredient line.Please note that at this point the allergenic protein has been removed.

Allergist's Note: this is not necessarily true.

I sent a politely irked email pointing this out, and requesting specific information regarding the 'natural flavors.' I also reiterated my question regarding ingredients, shared equipment and facility. (See above: the response did not discuss shared equipment or facility.) The same person said:

The supplier from which we obtain the natural flavoring will not reveal the exact ingredients to us, as they consider it to be proprietary.We do require the suppliers to inform us if any of the following components are in the flavor so we can label them on the ingredient line:

eggs, dairy, celery, soy, treenuts, peanuts, wheat, fish, shellfish, seafood, gluten and sulfites

Also, we do not include monosodium glutamate (also known as MSG), hydrolyzed protein (sometimes known as hydrolyzed vegetable protein or HVP) or autolyzed yeast extract under the term 'natural flavor' in the ingredient line.

What I can tell you is that if any of our products contains protein from a substance recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to cause severe to life-threatening reactions in susceptible individuals, those substances are ALWAYS listed on the ingredient statement.

Kim McMiller

Associate Director, Consumer Relations
Mama's note: my questions about shared equipment/facility are not addressed. Nor is the FAAN study that I cited regarding tree nut proteins found in 'natural flavors.' Furthermore, she's overlooking that my list of allergens includes items that the FDA requires them to list (a.k.a. the Big Eight allergens). Furthermore, the FDA has yet to make a decision about cross-contamination, and is wavering over how much protein content counts as life-threatening. Which makes stating the FDA's position not exactly helpful in answering my question.

My final request for clarification and my restatement of my questions was ignored.

Meanwhile, all hail Allergy Grocer, which not only answers my questions with zest and speed, but has an extraordinary level of precision. They do not, alas, manage questions about products outside of their own selection, which leaves me out of luck where Triscuits are concerned.

BTW, Triscuit makes a sesame-containing version, the garlic-rosemary flavor. Seems like the answer to my question was: yes, we make a product with sesame. And anything made on the same machines as this cracker would be problematic. So why couldn't the contact person at Nabisco just say that, and tell me what is/is not made on shared lines? In the same facility?

Bah, humbug.

From the post over at Check My Tag, I suspect Utz would be another company worth trying to talk to... see here for some excellent labelling practices.

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