Alpro has agreed to keep production of its one-litre Junior soya milk cartons in a nut-free environment following protests by allergy campaigners.
The company will merge production of its soya, almond and hazelnut lines later this year, and added precautionary “may contain traces…” warnings to its products in late 2013.
This angered campaigners who said the warning was superfluous and could reduce choice for allergy sufferers. Instead, they argued Alpro should take appropriate steps to ensure there was no cross-contamination between its soya and nut lines once production had merged.
This week, Alpro said it had been able to arrange the continued separate production of its one-litre Alpro Soya 1+ Junior Drink in a nut-free facility. “The chosen factory is not earmarked for nut product manufacturing and has the capacity for the relatively small volume represented by one-litre Alpro Soya Junior 1+ packs,” marketing controller Tim Smith said.
The “may contain traces…” warning would be removed from those packs as soon as possible, he added.
However, the integration of other lines – including the 250ml carton Alpro Soya 1+ Junior Drink – will still go ahead, and Smith defended Alpro’s decision to add precautionary warnings to those products.
“Although there is no legal requirement to mention potential cross-contamination on labels when all good manufacturing practices are adopted to avoid it, at this stage we cannot predict the results of monitoring for cross-contamination with traces of almond or hazelnut,” he said.
“We have also previously declared that products were made in a nut-free environment, and for these reasons we believe that labelling with a ‘may contain traces…’ warning is an important safeguard for consumers who may not be aware of the change.”
But Smith suggested Alpro’s stance on the “may contain traces…” warning could change once the its new, merged manufacturing regime had bedded in. “We would expect monitoring to take about six months from the start of production before we can judge whether the warnings which are now appearing on pack could be removed ,” he said.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is due to publish a report on allergens in the summer, and Smith said Alpro expected this to provide “useful food for thought on issues such as thresholds on unintentional presence of allergens”.
However, campaign group AlproSOS said it feared making one-litre packs of Junior 1+ nut-free - but not 250ml cartons - would lead to consumer confusion. “Alpro has claimed that it is imposing the ‘may contain’ labels to better inform consumers, but we fail to see how having different labelling for different sizes of the Junior 1+ milk can be anything but confusing,” said group co-founder Alexa Baracaia.
“We would like to see more commitment to address the very real and serious concerns of their previously hugely loyal allergic consumers, including extending the ‘nut free’ concession to the 250ml Junior 1+ as well as yoghurts and desserts, and in the longer term, once the new site is up and running, making a public commitment to review by a mutually agreed date their allergen control processes and to removing all precautionary labels once it is shown that there is no demonstrable risk.”