Just none Cornetto…

computer_says_noYOU might think that with the proliferation of ‘may contain nuts’ labels across our foodstuffs, people with allergies would find it easy to gather all the necessary info on what they can and cannot eat.

You’d be wrong. As a glimpse into the doublespeak-heavy world of trying to find out what’s safe and what’s not, here’s an excerpt from my dealings with Unilever’s customer “care” people…

I’ve been trying for weeks to find out which, if any, of their Walls brand ice creams might be safe and free from eggs, peanuts and tree nuts (and all traces thereof). My first call hit a dead-end when the woman on the other end assumed she knew more than I did and kept repeating the mantra “it’s UK law for us to declare if there are nut traces” (it’s not). I felt if she didn’t know the law then there was no way I’d trust her to reassure me on what might be safe for my child to eat.

So I asked for an email response and got a bundle of confusing lists stating which products contained nuts (no mention of eggs) and which didn’t, along with this:

Hello from Walls

Dear Alexa

Thank you for your recent telephone call requesting information on which Unilever UK and Ireland ice cream products nuts and tree nuts.

I have enclosed two lists which I hope you will find useful. This information has been provided in good faith using the most up-to-date information available at the date of going to print. Please note that the information is subject to change due to recipe amendments and therefore ALWAYS check the product label for the most accurate information.

Thank you for your interest in our products and please do not hesitate to contact me again if you have any further queries.

Kind regards,

Belinda Bekaraze
Careline Advisor

That’s a start, granted, but I wanted to know if it was Unilever company policy to state on the packaging if there ‘may’ be traces – and if there was no such warning could I be sure there was no risk of cross-contamination? What are the cleaning processes? Are eggs and nuts used on the same lines? Are the ‘safe’ ice creams made in nut free or egg free factories?

Despite my very best efforts I have received just one subsequent response from “Sophie Michels, careline advisor”. She sent the same lists again, along with a very nearly identical letter. May I direct you, also, to the third paragraph:

Hello from Walls

Dear Alexa,

Thank you for your recent email requesting information on which Unilever UK and Ireland Ice Cream products are produced in a nut free and egg free environment.

I have enclosed a list which I hope you will find useful, so you can compare the lists to see which products are suitable. This information has been provided in good faith using the most up-to-date information available at the date of going to print. Please note that the information is subject to change due to recipe amendments and therefore ALWAYS check the product label for the most accurate information.

The products on these lists CONTAIN Egg and Nut as an ingredient or traces of Egg due to cross contamination they will be produced in a nut/egg free environment.

Thank you for your interest in our products and please do not hesitate to contact me again if you have any further queries.

Kind regards,

Sophie Michels
Careline Advisor

Sorry if I’m being pedantic but when it’s my two-year-old’s life at risk I’m not prepared to take this as a resounding statement of safety.

I replied, suggesting that “Sophie” might like to re-read her email and re-send information that made sense. That was a month ago. Isn’t it ironic that Unilever sponsors allergy research when it can’t get its arse in gear to pass on the most basic information?

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3 thoughts on “Just none Cornetto…

  1. one of the many examples showing us how poor allergy awareness is within the food industry. one would think the big names in the industry can easily afford expert advise on the issue. there is a lot of work out there to counsel for food allergies and it’s prevention i guess.

    1. Totally – in my experience it’s the small companies that get it right on allergy information – I have never had a prompt or accurate response from a big brand or chain (excluding the wonderful Doves Farm and Dietary Specials, whose purpose is to be allergy friendly).

  2. Wow, a custom letter response, worse than useless. My daughter is allergic to dairy and egg, I used to give her products that stated ‘may contain’, she has been having Walls Calippo’s this Summer and it has caused an increase in her symptoms, so from now on I am completely avoiding their products. Now I know to not even bother contacting them for information.

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