Tesco has rejected allergy campaigners’ suggestions it is putting unnecessary “may contain nuts” warnings on products to protect itself from potential legal action.
The retailer has faced anger from allergy campaigners in recent days, who have accused it of adding nut allergy warnings to unlikely products such as ham, yoghurt and sweet potatoes.
Tesco has stressed warning labels were only displayed where there was a genuine risk of cross contamination, but said it would remove a “may contain nuts” warning from one of its ham products following a review of production processes.
Campaigners have taken to Facebook to challenge Tesco on its labelling practices, highlighting several Tesco own-label products with new nuts warnings, including honey-roast wafer-thin ham, natural yoghurt and pre-packed butternut squash and sweet potatoes.
A spokesman for Tesco said the nut warning on the ham product would be removed in due course because Tesco had reviewed its processes and was satisfied it was safe to take it off.
But he stressed Tesco only added warning labels where there was a genuine risk of cross contamination, and there had been an element of risk with the ham.
“Our first priority is always the safety of our customers and we take great care to label our products with allergy advice where necessary,” the spokesman said. “We only display these warnings on products when there is a risk of cross contamination.”
New EU rules on allergy labelling come into force later this year, and retailers have started updating the labels on their own-label products to conform with the new legislation.
But campaigners believe the new rules are in some cases being used as a pretext for rolling out precautionary “may contain nuts” warnings to products that do not require them.
Alexa Baracaia, parent of a nut-allergic child, welcomed the news that Tesco was removing the label from the ham but said “it begs the question of why that label was there in the first place and appears to confirm our suspicions that these labels are little more than lazy legal disclaimers rather than genuine statements of risk”.
Tesco should provide “a full and proper explanation of risk” for every item labelled with a “may contain nuts” warning and to remove labels “from every item that does not genuinely demonstrate risk of cross contamination,” she added.