Tag Archives: contamination risk

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

At Last, Coeliacs Get a Pizza the Action!

16 Oct

Well come on, I work in the newspaper industry, you’ve got to give me the opportunity for at least one dodgy headline on here haven’t you?!  Anyway, if you are coeliac or following a gluten free diet then unless you’ve been living a sheltered life recently then you’ll have witnessed the wave of excitement in the last couple of weeks over three gluten free pizza announcements.  First of all Prezzo announced they would be serving gluten free pizza bases, have a look at the comments on this post for some great review comments from Elizabeth and Jessica.  This was closely followed by a Coeliac UK announcement that Pizza Hut would be following suit.  Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better it was announced the very same day that Domino’s would be serving gluten free pizza from November.

There was initially a lot of scepticism amongst the coeliac community as to whether this type of restaurant could really take cross contamination seriously enough to make these pizzas coeliac friendly.  However, it seems all three companies have worked closely with Coeliac UK and all have cross contamination controls in place.  Having looked on enviously at my social media feeds over the last week and seeing picture after picture after delicious looking pizza, I met up with fellow Plymouth gluten free blogger Sarah Ram to try the Pizza Hut offering.  Big congratulations to Sarah who passed her driving test just before we met for lunch!

I’d rung ahead to make sure the restaurant we were visiting had the gluten free bases, and also downloaded a voucher from Voucher Cloud giving any pizza plus salad for five pounds.  I had previously read that the salad bar was a bit of a cross contamination risk, so Sarah and I both avoided that and headed straight for the pizza.  Like we were there for the salad anyway!

We were told all toppings were gluten free, but being the sceptic that I am I also asked to see the allergy list so we could check our order.  We both chose the Americano, which consisted off chicken, bacon, sweetcorn and BBQ sauce.  Could you really ask for a better combination!

The pizza was a nine inch square pizza.  It looked kind of small when it arrived, but I have to say it was very filling and I was very full by the time I finished.  The pizza itself is square to make it stand out, and gives you confidence that you’ve actually been given the correct pizza.  The gluten free pizzas are baked on their own square trays to minimise cross contamination risks, and a clean pizza cutter is delivered with your un-sliced pizza again to cut out another risk from the kitchen.

The base itself was very nice.  It wasn’t very crispy if this is how you like it, but this suited me.  The balance between topping and base was spot on and we both really enjoyed the pizza.  I remember Pizza Hut being very greasy when I used to be able to eat there, but there was no hint of grease on this pizza at all.  Actually my wife always used to complain about the grease, and I would not be surprised if she would prefer this base to the standard one.

The staff seemed very keen to help and I have seen this mentioned a few times by other people.  There seemed to be genuine interest on what we thought of the pizza, and they were keen to tell us about good feedback they’d received from other customers about it.  There seemed to be some genuine interest/excitement from the staff about the new option.  They were happy to take us through the allergy list, and I even troubled them to show us the dessert options even though we’d already told them we weren’t having any.  Pretty slim pickings in that respect.

I would definitely go back for another go, and it is great to have another readily available option when out and about.  It was also really nice just to sit in a pizza restaurant and feel a little bit normal for a change.  A luxury once taken for granted and now so precious.  I’d love to hear about your Pizza Hut experience.  Please comment below and let everyone know how you found it.  I look forward to hopefully bringing you Prezzo and Domino’s reviews in the near future.

Update 28/02/12: Pizza Hut have now extended their gluten free operations, and their gluten free pizza base is now also available from their 300 delivery outlets. More from Coeliac UK below:

http://www.coeliac.org.uk/node/249829
 

Kevin, Gluten Free by the Sea

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