NEW YORK, April 7, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Last week, The Kellogg Company issued a blockbuster announcement: They will begin adding peanut flour to existing varieties of crackers sold under their Keebler® and Austin® brands, varieties that previously bore no warnings of peanut content.
While the company already manufactures products containing peanuts, this action means products that were previously relied upon as "safe" alternatives for consumers with peanut allergies will soon pose a risk of anaphylaxis – a severe, sometimes life-threatening allergic reaction – to those very same consumers, many of whom are children.
One in 13 children in the US now suffers from a food allergy, while allergy to peanuts and tree nuts is the leading cause of fatal allergic reaction in the country. The incidence of peanut allergy in US children climbed more than 300% between 1997 and 2008 alone and continues to skyrocket.
As required under FDA labeling guidelines, Kellogg's has stated they will relabel their products to indicate the presence of peanut as an ingredient. But as a food allergy advocate and the parent of a daughter with a severe peanut allergy, I am concerned with the ramifications of their decision even as Kellogg's operates within the letter of the law.
People with food allergies, their parents, and caretakers sometimes become complacent reading labels, especially for brands they have relied upon for years. ("Those Keebler Cheese and Cheddar Crackers? They're fine… we've been giving them to junior since he was a toddler.")
But the problem doesn't end there. Teachers, school nurses, daycare providers, scout leaders, youth sports league coaches – anyone responsible for children where snacks are traditionally consumed – may have been trained to recognize these products as safe alternatives, as have the parents of non-allergic children that must comply with nut-free classroom policies.
What will happen when some inevitably miss the change in the ingredient labeling? We can only speculate, but the losers will be the unsuspecting who suffer the reactions as a result.
Why would Kellogg's choose to introduce peanut flour given the recent surge in peanut allergy? They gave no reason in their statement, but they are making an egregious error that may very well result in unnecessary reactions and – quite possibly – deaths.
Shortly after the announcement was issued, I initiated a petition on Change.org urging consumers to stand together in opposing this change. The petition reads as follows:
Petitioning John A Bryant, Chairman and CEO The Kellogg Company:
We, the allergic community comprised of food allergy sufferers, parents, allergists, pediatricians, teachers, school nurses and caregivers, are outraged that you have decided to introduce peanut flour into your Keebler and Austin brand crackers, products that are not generally associated with peanuts and are favorites of children.
While there is no doubt that you will relabel your products to warn of peanut content, your decision will put at risk thousands of peanut-allergic consumers who already purchase these brands. Furthermore, shoppers that have no reason to believe that a cheese cracker might contain peanuts may never read your advisories, endangering themselves or the children in their care.
While we understand your interest in raising the protein and lowering the carbohydrate content of your products in as cheaply a manner as possible, doing so using peanuts – the allergen most responsible for triggering anaphylaxis, an allergic reaction that can result in horrific consequences including death – is unethical and irresponsible. Surely there are other less allergenic alternatives that will achieve your nutrition goals without endangering this large and growing community, even if doing so means sacrificing some of your profit in the interest of serving that community.
We urge you to reconsider this move which will undoubtedly call into question the safety of other Keebler, Austin, and Kellogg's products while tarnishing these brands for a generation to come.
The petition garnered over 10,000 signatures in the first 48 hours and continues to draw the support of concerned individuals as word spreads.
During this time when the incidence of food allergy is exploding, food manufacturers are making huge investments in order to engage with and serve communities with dietary restrictions. Instead, Kellogg's is making a determined corporate decision to take an enormous leap backward.
We, the many thousands of signees to the petition, urge Kellogg's to reconsider their decision in light of safer alternatives. If they are determined to experiment with peanut flour or other highly allergenic ingredients in their product formulations, let them do so under a new brand that will not be confused with existing products. If they are searching for ways to enhance the nutritional content of existing products, let them do so with other, far less allergenic alternatives.
In the preface to the Kellogg's Code of Ethics, the Chairman and CEO of the company asserts their commitment to "nourishing families so they can flourish and thrive," as they "continue earning the trust of those who love our brands." It is my hope they reverse their decision and make good on that commitment to the benefit and safety of the allergic community.
Established in 2011, SnackSafely.com is an advocacy that provides straightforward, actionable information to help improve the lives of the estimated 17 million people in the US suffering with food allergies.
We strive to eliminate anaphylaxis by leveraging our on-line properties to educate, advocate, and connect the allergic community with products and services that help toward achieving this goal.
Our blog covers topics of interest to the food allergy community including news reports; ongoing research, clinical studies, trials and progress toward treatment and cure; general advocacy; and advice regarding food safety and school policies.
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