Nut another one … two

Further developments regarding the M&S / Kinnerton nut-warning confusion which I blogged about last week.

To recap, M&S Made Without Dairy chocolate - made by Kinnerton - carries a “not suitable for nut allergy sufferers due to manufacturing methods” warning.

A further response from a senior source at M&S has confirmed that the chocolate IS manufactured in the nut-free zone at Kinnerton (they have a non-nut-free zone too). So why the warning?

“We have guidelines around the risk assessment of all allergens and the use of labelling on our chocolate products. Our current position is that nut labelling on chocolate should remain on products manufactured on a site which handles nuts. We carry out a risk assessment before adding an alibi label to a product. It has been our policy to traditionally add nut alibi labelling to all chocolate products due to the potential risk of nut cross-contamination within the process of producing chocolate.”

This response begs a number of questions:

1. If M&S's current position is that nut labelling should remain on products manufactured on a site which handles nuts - why carry out a risk assessment? If you’re going to put an advisory warning on the product anyway, as this is what you ’traditionally’ do, why bother?

2. Why (see previous blog) did Kinnerton claim dairy was “the only allergen risk reviewed”? This appears to contradict M&S’s claims of having conducted a risk assessment before implementing their on-pack nut-related warning.

3. If M&S are not satisfied enough with the considerable lengths that Kinnerton go to to prevent cross-contamination and maintain controls at their site (you can read them here), despite their earlier claim that they are not undermining the 'safety and integrity' of the Kinnerton nut-free promise, then what would satisfy them? You wonder whether they will ever produce nut-free ranges - chocolate or otherwise - for allergic consumers if a company who has made 300 million chocolate products for nut-allergy sufferers and not had one verified nut incident in 15 years cannot reassure them that their “manufacturing methods” are as safe as practically possible for nut allergies.

As Kinnerton say on their site, there are no absolute guarantees in life, and they’re right. M&S seem to want to reach the “100% guarantee .. 100% nut free” that they referred to in their initial correspondence to me. It’s impossible. I suspect, sooner or later, they will have to modify that position because, while they seem to be doing a lot of good work for their coeliac customers, I fear they risk alienating a lot of their food allergy consumers unnecessarily.

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