A Gluten Free Grumble, Terry’s Chocolate Orange

6 Nov

Well it may be because I’ve had a terrible few days, or it may be because I’ve been fobbed off one time too many, but I think it’s time for my first Gluten Free by the Sea moan.  I always try to keep a positive spin on blog posts on here, so forgive me for having this grumble.  With Christmas looming on the horizon, it’s that time of year when coeliacs and those with wheat or gluten intolerance start to think about those goodies we can, or indeed can’t, have over the festive period.

I was recently chatting to Sarah Carter of the Wuthering Bites blog about how one of my all time favourites, the Terry’s Chocolate Orange, is out of bounds as it “may contain wheat”.  These beauties will soon be stacked high in the supermarkets, and I will look forlornly at them as I pass them by.  No doubt I will tease myself and even read the label, just in case they’ve made them gluten free.  So I decided I would email Terry’s to see if any of their products are safe, or if they are looking into making them safe.  It seems Terry’s don’t even have a website (really?!), but all roads led back to Kraft Foods.  I filled in a contact form, stating my issue and asking for a contact at Terry’s.  This was the reply:

Dear Kevin Gollop

Kind regards,

Blank email, not the best of starts so I replied informing them of this.  The second reply was not much better:

Thank you for contacting us. The recipe for Terry’s Chocolate Orange does not contain wheat. There is however a small risk of contamination as wheat is an ingredient used in other products made in the location. Please refer to the packaging to confirm. I hope this fully answers your question.

OK, so if they’re not going to pass me on to someone at Terry’s as I requested then I’m going to fire some questions back at them:

Thank you for your reply.  As I am a sufferer of coeliac disease I can assure you that I am avid reader of labels.
May I please ask some follow up questions:
1. Does the wheat cross contamination risk extend to all Terry’s Chocolate Orange varieties including bars and segments etc?  If not, which ones are OK?
2. What can the gluten free community do to encourage Kraft to make the Chocolate Orange range safe for people with gluten and wheat intolerance?  Many more companies are now providing gluten free options, such as Prezzo: http://www.caterersearch.com/Articles/27/09/2012/345503/Prezzo-launches-gluten-free-pizza.htm You will notice from that article that there are up to 9 million people who are gluten sensitive in the UK.  That seems like a huge chunk of potential sales that you are missing out on. 
3. Are Kraft actively doing anything to address this issue?
It took me five days to get my email through as the main UK Customer Services mailbox was evidently full and needed some housekeeping.  I thought my follow up questions were worth asking so I persisted.  You will notice in question 2 I point out how much money they are potentially missing out on, by this point I’d obviously realised that customer care was not high on the agenda so took a different angle of attack.  So today I got another response:
Thank you for your email. Any product that is at risk of containing wheat will be labelled accordingly. Please read the label before any purchase as products may change, however up to date packaging will inform you of those changes. Though Terry’s may be considering a change to further accommodate gluten intolerant or sensitive consumers, we currently have no information available for distribution. However your comments and suggestions have been passed on to the manufacturer.
Call me cynical, but I have the feeling my comments may have been consigned to the bin.  I am not expecting them to drop everything and make their products gluten free on the back of my correspondence, and I have no issue with them telling me to read the label to caveat some useful information.  But come on give me something here.  “Customer care”, I’m not sure that’s what I’d describe it as.  I’ve had a similar experience with Cadbury’s recently after emailing them to find out the situation with Wispa’s (it was noticed the “main contain wheat” warning had been dropped from some packets.  Again a similar response:
Like a number of other food companies we have chosen to separately list all the allergens which may appear in the product in one clearly identifiable yellow box on the back of the wrapper. This is where you will look if you suffer from a specific allergy, such as nuts, wheat, milk, soya or any of the many ingredients which can cause a reaction.  As the web site is updated on a regular basis, the yellow box on our packaging is the most definitive allergen status of our products.  The Anaphylaxis Campaign are in favour of our labelling and consider it Best Practice.
Again all well and good but completely ignoring the question.  They did not have the decency to even reply to my follow up questions, though I do give Cadbury’s credit for their clear allergy labelling if not their controls over wheat in their factories.  I also contacted Mars a few months back as I had eaten a few Snickers and had heard they were made on lines handling gluten.  I merely received the standard wording from their website in reply:

Our policy on allergen labelling is to be clear, within the ingredients list, where a product contains allergenic ingredients as part of the recipe or in trace amounts.  Please visit our nutritional website which provides a full list of ingredients for our products. The information is updated regularly and is for guidance only. For definitive advice, we always recommend that you read the label.  If you have any concerns regarding allergens or intolerances please do not hesitate to contact our Consumer Care team.

Brilliant that they do not provide a link to their nutritional website in this statement, and when I found it the same text is carried and the Customer Care Team were unable to tell me more.  It seems Mars do not even use the “may contain” warnings even when there is a possibility of cross contamination, and none of their products are listed in the Coeliac UK directory.  I now avoid all Mars products completely.  At least with Cadbury’s you can find some things that are safe.

I am just getting a bit sick of big companies just fobbing me off when I make enquiries over their products.  As a coeliac I spend my life reading labels, and if I email it’s because I have a genuine enquiry that the label is not telling me.  These companies really should know what’s in their food and make the information clearly and easily available via the internet.  In this day and age it is surely not too much to ask.  I should give credit to Tetley and Seabrook’s who have at least given me good customer service when I have contacted them.  I can only suggest as many of you as possible contact companies to show them there is a demand for safe gluten free food.  I would also love to hear about your good and bad customer service experiences, please comment below if you have any.

OK so even after a rant I have to try and end with something positive, so hear are a couple of gluten free orange chocolate suggestions thank to Emma Hutchinson (though sadly not orange shapped!):

Organic Orange Chocolate from Plamil
Essential Orange Chocolate from Concious
Kevin, Gluten Free by the Sea

15 Responses to “A Gluten Free Grumble, Terry’s Chocolate Orange”

  1. Elizabeth Sargent November 7, 2012 at 11:22 am #

    I haven’t been impressed either recently. It has been two weeks since I contacted Sharwood’s with no response, and nearly a month since I emailed New Covent Garden. Dispicable behaviour!

    • Kevin Gollop November 7, 2012 at 11:38 am #

      Thanks for the comment Elizabeth. No excuse for bad customer service. I think some of these companies need to have a good look at themselves. Rubbish.

  2. Alexa Baracaia November 8, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    I agree – companies have a stock response and they stick to it like glue.

    I’ve tried to get a sensible answer as to whether certain products (eg Cadbury’s) contain wheat but have emphasised that I don’t have an issue with gluten (my son is wheat allergic not Coeliac) so am happy to have products that do include gluten as long as wheat isn’t present. It’s like talking to a brick wall. Same response, word for word, every time.

    Not to mention how frequently I have emailed or called a manufacturer to say I have read the ingredients list but want to double-check… and am told “check the label for allergen information”. Arggh.

    The only company I’ve found to be completely helpful and to respond, as humans, to specific questions, is Kinnerton.

    • Kevin Gollop November 8, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

      Thanks for the comment Alexa. It’s so frustrating isn’t it. It’s just a complete lack of customer service that gets me, not to mention the health responsibilities. All we can do is keep on at them and take or business elsewhere in the mean time.

  3. Lisa Hackett November 12, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    Hi Kevin,

    I may have a cure for your chocolate orange cravings! I make an item that I call the Jaffa Slice. It is a light, moist sponge, made from fresh Seville Oranges, Butternut Squash, and ground almonds, its topped with good quality dark chocolate 75% cocoa. My customers think its great, it tends to be my best seller.
    I have just started a small home bakery from my gluten free kitchen. Here is the link to my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/letthemeatcakecornwall
    If you get chance to pop down to Royal WIlliam Yard on Sunday 2nd December I share stall space with Tamar Grow Local. I shall have the Jaffa Slice, along with many other items available. Please introduce yourself, I’ll keep some samples a side for you. In the meantime you can find my products in Jennifer’s Deli, Fore Street, Saltash (opp. The Brunel Inn)

    • Kevin Gollop November 12, 2012 at 11:03 am #

      Many thanks for the comment Lisa, that sounds great! I’ll do my very best to make it down to Royal William Yard on the 2nd to see you. Whereabout’s in Cornwall are you based?

      • Lisa Hackett November 13, 2012 at 8:00 am #

        Hi Kevin, I am in Hatt which is just between Saltash and Callington. I am at Crocodon producers fair (St Mellion, main A388) this Saturday the 17th November if you fancy a trip over the water:-)

      • Kevin Gollop November 13, 2012 at 8:03 am #

        Thanks Lisa, I am in London this Saturday unfortunately 🙂

  4. Oonagh Williams December 21, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    It’s just as frustrating here in USA. As a Brit based in New Hampshire I had always thought we did it better in UK. Baileys are amazing, they tell people over here to check with their doctor as to whether they can drink Baileys. and Doctor is meant to know, How? It seems to me over here, the bigger the company such as Kraft, the less they care enough to be careful. I have told them all numerous times that they are losing money. I post comments, articles, recipes from my last two years columns for US National Foundation for Celiac Awareness on my fb at gluten free cooking with Oonagh and on my blog http://www.royaltemptations.com/blog My recipes are American cup measures since I live here, but I am slowly including imperial and metric quantities and UK v US words.

    • Kevin Gollop December 21, 2012 at 9:30 pm #

      Funny enough I came across that reference on the Bailey’s website the other day, infuriating! Why can’t companies take responsibility for what is in their food? That’s a great looking blog by the way 🙂

  5. gerrysmum December 28, 2012 at 5:06 pm #

    I phoned the Wispa people as I was puzzled by someone (me) with a wheat allergy can’t have a standard Wispa but can have the Wispa bites and caramel Wispa and they told me that the plain Wispa bars were made in a separate factory from the other Wispa products. The other factory is free from wheat and gluten whereas the one the plain Wispa is made in isn’t. You should try talking to some of the “free from” manufacturers who don’t get that de-gluteinised wheat starch is dangerous for me, that’s scary! lol

    • Kevin Gollop December 28, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

      I believe the plain Wispa’s are now OK. The “made in a factory handling wheat” warning was removed a couple months back. I know what you mean ref the codex wheat starch, I am OK with it but confusing if you have a wheat allergy!

      • gerrysmum December 28, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

        Ooh, I’ll have to have a look, thanks!

  6. Lynette November 11, 2014 at 9:28 pm #

    I think morrisons do a similar version long time since I brought it but check the label . Lol

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Let Them Eat Cake « Gluten Free By The Sea - January 15, 2013

    […] in November I was having a little grumble about Terry’s Chocolate Orange, and it’s lack of suitability for coeliacs.  I received […]

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