Talking Allergies

RFI - Chapman's Lactose Free Products
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Author:  katec [ Fri Jul 10, 2015 2:40 pm ]
Post subject:  RFI - Chapman's Lactose Free Products

I know that Chapman's is recognized in the allergy community for it's peanut and tree nut free ice cream products but I really think that there is room for improvement in their labeling of lactose free sorbet products.

Our daughter was at risk of a reaction today because of the lack of clear labeling of trace milk ingredients in the Chapman's sorbet line. Fortunately, she didn't consume the product and she is well. Let me explain the situation which I am sure will not be a unique one for people dealing with milk or food allergies.

My daughter was off to an overnight camp yesterday. I had reviewed the menu with the adult supervisor to ensure that the food would be milk, peanut and tree nut free. As I was dropping her off last night, I double checked with him about a few items. He told me that he had found a safe sorbet for her. I asked to look at the product because I have never found a sorbet before without her allergens. He brought out a container of Chapman's Rainbow Sorbet. I was skeptical as I had contacted Chapman's several years ago and had been told that the sorbet was not safe. However, I reviewed the label and did not find milk listed in the ingredients and did not see a precautionary "may contain" statement. The supervisor was so confident that this product would be okay. I had to start explaining about the difference between lactose free and milk free as well as the Canadian labeling laws about precautionary statements. It was a difficult conversation in the middle of a busy camp setting. From his point of view the product was safe. We left her at this out of town camp with a promise from the supervisor that he would contact the company the next day to confirm whether the product was safe for my daughter.

As we drove away, I thought about the situation and became more concerned. I went to the Chapman's website and did not find any information about trace ingredients or cross contamination. There is no warning about milk content in the sorbet products on their website. There is only a clear statement about peanuts, nuts and lactose content.

I had to wait until this morning to contact their office during business hours. When I called the company spokesperson confirmed again for me that there could be trace amounts of milk in the sorbet. I expressed my disappointment in the labeling of the product. The spokesperson stated that the company was not required to label for trace amounts or cross contamination. When I tried to explain the importance of clear labeling and described our current situation at camp, she continued to tell me that it would impossible to label for the large number of potential allergens and that this type of labeling would take up too much room on the label and reduce company advertising. I was surprised by this response and tried to make the point that many other companies are able to add precautionary labels to make shopping safer and less confusing for allergic consumers. She replied that people knew that their products may contain milk. This response shocked me. I told her that I was not trying to be difficult but disagreed because not all people have that information - the camp supervisor didn't. She simple responded that she would pass on my feedback to the company and I left it at that as I had to get in contact with the camp ASAP to make sure that my daughter didn't eat the sorbet.

Luckily I reached the camp after several phone calls. The supervisor was very surprised that sorbet could contain milk. He had no idea. I was so relieved that situation was resolved safely but I am not happy with the labeling at Chapman's or the response of their spokesperson. I really hope that a change will take place in their labeling.

Author:  spacecanada [ Thu Jul 16, 2015 1:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: RFI - Chapman's Lactose Free Products

This was a big point I brought up in the recent CFIA food labelling survey earlier this summer. Lactose free =/= milk-free, and then some labels can even say dairy-free but contain dairy byproducts. It's confusing and not safe. Clearer labels are needed.

There is similar confusion between peanut-free and nut-free too, though their guidelines are a bit more stricter than the milk ones, but just as confusing to consumers and well-intentioned people like your child's camp staff who don't know because nothing tells them otherwise.

I'm glad you were able to get the answer in time and keep your child safe. I have heard that Breyers makes dairy-free sorbets, and I know several kids with dairy allergy who eat them. Might be worth looking into.

Author:  katec [ Thu Jul 16, 2015 3:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: RFI - Chapman's Lactose Free Products

I'm glad that you made mention of this labeling issue with the CFIA. A lactose free statement on products is definitely confusing for consumers. Our milk free margarine is labelled as lactose free. I had to call the company to confirm that it was milk free. More clarification and regulation about the term, lactose free, is needed.

I will have to look up some information about the Breyer's sorbet.

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