Food Allergy Counseling

Food Allergy Counseling
Sloane Miller, MFA, MSW, LMSW, Psychotherapist; Specialist in Food Allergy Management, Speaking At Mylan Specialty / EpiPen Event (© Noel Malcolm 2013)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Philly Cream Cheese, Pecans: Food Allergens




Philadelphia Cream Cheese, I’ve been eating it since, well, as long as I can recall. Spread on bagels, on toast with jam or making a New York Style cheesecake. At some point, I switched to the Whipped, a lighter calorie version, which is also so much more spreadable. I love Whipped Philly!

Recently, I saw this in stores.




I’m severely allergic, anaphylactic, to tree nuts, including pecans. So how would this new flavor affect me? Are they making these two cream cheeses in the same facility? Are the pecan real pecans or synthetic pecan flavoring? So many questions. 

I called Kraft and upshot, their call center is not on-site at Kraft; it was a third party who had very little information other than the facility uses good manufacturing practices when making all of their products, especially in relation to the top eight allergens. Good to know but that information wasn’t specific enough to wouldn’t help me to make a decision about whether to continue buying and using Whipped Philly Cream Cheese. I did ask the call center to email me with the information they did have and that is the email below:

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Thank You for Contacting Us!

Hi Ms. Miller

Thank you for visiting 877-535-5666 and for your interest in our Philadelphia cream cheese. 
We appreciate you reaching out to us at Kraft Foods regarding food allergens.

First and foremost, I want to assure you that as part of Kraft's ongoing commitment to its consumers and food safety, we take the issue of food allergens very seriously. This extends throughout our manufacturing process, from procurement of ingredients to production and labeling of our products, and includes the establishment of clear procedures to control and communicate the presence of potential life-threatening allergens in our products.

I welcome the opportunity to explain our allergen labeling policy so that you will consider Kraft products with confidence in the future. When labeling products we always identify the major allergens as outlined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (milk; eggs; fish; crustacean shellfish; tree nuts; peanuts; wheat; and soybeans), and we are in full compliance with FALCPA labeling requirements. Kraft also labels for additional allergens or substances of interest including celery, mustard, lupin, mollusks, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, poppyseeds, cottonseed, all sources of gluten and sulfites in levels over 10 ppm. We have added consumer-friendly language to complex ingredient names on our labels to help consumers, especially children, easily identify the key ingredients that could cause major allergic reactions.

We know that some people may be very sensitive to even minor traces of an allergen and understand concern about potential carryover between products that are manufactured on shared equipment. If the presence of one of these allergens, like peanuts, may be unavoidable despite all the precautions we take, we label the product as follows:

"ALLERGY INFORMATION: MANUFACTURED ON EQUIPMENT THAT PROCESSES PEANUTS."

Our labeling informs consumers clearly about the potential carryover and the exact allergen that may be present. However, we believe that this type of "may contain" labeling should be used judiciously -- only when an allergen could be present despite all precautions to prevent it. Also, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises that "may contain" labeling should not be used in place of good manufacturing practices that include cleaning of equipment.

In addition to providing allergen information on our labels, Kraft continues to work towards improving the clarity of that information. To that end, we are in the process of developing plans to enhance allergen labeling on a global basis. This may take the form of a "contains" statement (e.g., "contains wheat and milk") or bolding allergens within the ingredient statement, depending on available label space and government requirements in the country in which the product will be sold. During the course of the next year, we will be focused on this effort, which will include introducing new products to the marketplace bearing the enhanced allergen labeling and adding the enhanced allergen labeling to existing product labels on an ongoing basis.

As always, we encourage consumers to carefully read the product labels and ingredient facts panels, consult the kraftfoods.com website and/or contact Consumer Relations with any questions related to allergens. To assist with your personal dietary needs, we suggest you contact a physician, registered dietitian or allergist.
To locate a registered dietitian in your area, please contact the Consumer Nutrition Hot Line at: The American Dietetic Association (ADA).
1-800-366-1655

Another organization that you may want to contact for more information on food allergies is:
The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network 10400 Eaton Place, Suite 107 Fairfax, VA 22030-2208 800-929-4040 FAX 703-691-2713

We welcome input from consumers like you with suggestions on how to better communicate the presence of allergens in our products. We use this input to evaluate our practices and to consider additional options.

Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts.
Kim McMiller
Associate Director, Consumer Relations

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So, since that answer didn’t actually answer my direct question, I took to Twitter. I sent @Kraft a message publicly that I had some more in depth questions. They DM’d me so we could get the conversation started. Below is a copy of the back and forth we had. 

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Sloane Miller @allergicgirlHi Kraft, My question is about x contamination between whipped philly & honey pecan? same facility? are the pecans real or synthetic flavor?

Kraft Foods @kraftfoodsThanks, Sloane. We are looking into this, and will get back to you ASAP. Thanks!

Kraft Foods @kraftfoodsHi Sloane -- We have strict measures at the plant including segregated ingredient storage, handing systems and sanitation processes that ensure no cross contamination. We hope this helps! Thanks for being a fan.

Sloane Miller @allergicgirlThank you but that doesn't answer this Qs: r whipped philly & honey pecan made in same facility? are the pecans real or synthetic flavor?
  
Kraft Foods @kraftfoodsThose two particular items are made in the same manufacturing facility, but are produced on different production lines. The pecans are real, not synthetic.
  
Sloane Miller @allergicgirlso helpful thank you. so same building but different lines. what else is made on the whipped line?

Kraft Foods @kraftfoodsHi Sloane - All of our Philadelphia Whipped Cream Cheese products are produced on the same line, including Original, Chive, and Mixed Berry.

Kraft Foods @kraftfoodsNo products with nuts are made on the Whipped line. And we have strict measures in place at our manufacturing facilities to ensure that there is no cross-contamination when we produce products with allergens. Thank you again for reaching out!

Sloane Miller @allergicgirlso helpful - thank you!


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Upshot: I finally got the direct answers to my questions from Kraft via Twitter and the answer was: "Those two particular items are made in the same manufacturing facility, but are produced on different production lines. No products with nuts are made on the Whipped line. And we have strict measures in place at our manufacturing facilities to ensure that there is no cross-contamination when we produce products with allergens."

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