More Help for Food Allergy Sufferers

April 09, 2010

It’s not as easy as ABC for a packaged-foods supplier to be pristine about food allergies –

It’s not as easy as ABC for a packaged-foods supplier to be pristine about food allergies – to have its production and labeling right, as well as its communications with consumers who may be afflicted or live with someone who is. Yet it is Campbell, the maker of alphabet soup (and other center-store brands) that has used in-plant scanning technology to become a leader in food-allergy responsibility.

Recent kudos from the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) for its integrated systems that reduced product mislabeling to the point of zero in the past two years is well earned, in our view at The Lempert Report. 

Taking matters further, the manufacturer had its consumer call center staff “live the life of a person with food allergies in a simulation,” said Susan Baranowsky, consumer affairs director at Campbell. This raised their awareness of allergens, and “the challenges people face when choosing foods that are safe to include in their diets, and helped them to empathize with people.” They also direct interested consumers to a free, six-month FAAN membership where they can learn more about living with food allergies.

The importance of programs like these cannot be overemphasized, since the incidence of food allergies is rising (possibly for environmental reasons, and possibly because many pregnant women avoid eating suspect foods, so babies are born without tolerance), and people can be initially diagnosed with food allergies at any age. Consumers are often confused, and any proactive steps taken by CPG and retailers to clarify a safe, smart dietary course would be most welcome.

Consumers shouldn’t have to pore over the fine print on labels to know that what they’re eating won’t harm them. We’d like to see more initiatives such as the Campbell program. On a broader scale, we’d see great value in an industry initiative to build more clarity into package labeling, product organization at the shelf, and the use of technology to ensure allergens don’t crop up where they aren’t expected.