Tesco has conceded some of its products were given ‘may contain nuts’ warnings unnecessarily and has apologised to allergy sufferers for the “confusion and anguish” this caused.
It has announced a labelling review on all its products, asking suppliers to double-check that products only carry nut warnings where there is a demonstrable risk of cross-contamination and remove warning labels where necessary.
“Recently, how we label has changed and in that changeover the ‘may contain’ statement has been put on products it shouldn’t”
It comes after allergy campaigners – led by parents of children with nut allergies – complained Tesco had added numerous new ‘may contain nuts’ warnings to own-label products that had previously been deemed safe for allergy sufferers. These included cooked ham, apple juice and baked beans, among others.
Tesco initially rejected campaigners’ suggestions that the warnings were unnecessary, saying it had changed the format of its labels ahead of new EU labelling rules coming in later this year and only added ‘may contain nuts’ warnings where there was a genuine risk.
But on Monday (28 April), one of Tesco’s customer service representatives posted a message on Facebook admitting some of the labels had turned out to be unnecessary and apologising to customers.
“Recently, how we label has changed and in that changeover the ‘may contain’ statement has been put on products it shouldn’t and caused a lot of confusion and anguish amongst our customers – for which we are very sorry,” he said.
He reiterated it was Tesco’s policy to only display warning labels where there was genuine risk, and said it had asked its suppliers to review their risk assessment procedures. “The risk assessments for products with a ‘may contains’ statement are being reviewed and where following that review we can’t demonstrate there is a significant risk of cross contamination we will remove the ‘may contain’ statement from the label.”
He added: “We will also continue to work with our suppliers to ensure they have good manufacturing practices in place to reduce the risk of cross contamination – if we can remove the risk, we will remove the ‘may contain’.”
Campaign will continue
Alexa Baracaia, one of the campaigners, welcomed Tesco’s apology this week but said the campaign would continue.
“While we obviously welcome Tesco’s admission after weeks of claiming otherwise that they did get their labelling wrong, we now want Tesco to engage with us properly and fully until the situation is resolved,” she said.
“Tesco needs to dramatically improve its communications with allergic consumers”
“We expect to be kept informed of which items will see the ‘may contain’ labels removed and when. Tesco also needs to dramatically improve its communications with allergic consumers: we are entitled to full explanations of risk for specific products and will absolutely not be fobbed off with any more generalised and, indeed, factually incorrect responses from ill-informed staff.
“The campaign will continue until we are satisfied that all the unnecessary ‘may contain’ labels are removed and we are receiving the information we are entitled to from a consumer care team properly trained to handle allergen queries.”
As reported by The Grocer two weeks ago , Tesco has already announced it will remove a nut warning from one of its ham products following a risk review. A spokeswoman for Tesco said the retailer would ensure allergy sufferers were informed properly of any changes to labels and was currently working out how best to do this.