Until the last couple of years, I’ve trusted the labeling of “Annie’s Homegrown” (owned by General Mills), but as of today, I will no longer be purchasing their products. That is unless they change their labeling standards or provide more allergen information to consumers. I am not about cancel-culture, but I wanted to make this blog post to serve as an informative warning to the food allergy community. Of course, each person should eat according to what makes sense for their allergy and where it falls on the food allergy spectrum, etc. I was very disappointed to learn about Annie’s labeling since they’re often organic, which is important to me. Another reason is that they state in their FAQs that they inquire about allergens from the farm where they source their ingredients to the end product, but for me, it is not worth the peanut cross-contact risk at their facility.
In 2019, I first learned about their misleading labeling practices after I called on a box of their boxed macaroni & cheese to inquire about the “may contain” statement on the back. The company told me that if Annie’s makes a product containing peanuts (or a top 8 allergen) on equipment and cleans the equipment afterward to the FDA standards, they will test the lines (I’m uncertain how they do this- I am assuming it’s a food line swab test or product test). If it tests negative, they will label it as being “peanut-free” or leave off a “may contain: peanut” type statement since they feel they are positive there’s no risk of contamination.
I may be coming off as overly cautious here, but my life is on the line. I’ve read many stories in online forums of food allergy individuals who have stated that they consumed a product they thought was safe since it was tested and came from a facility with strict allergen labeling, and a reaction happened. I’ve had this happen with the brand So Delicious, which I love, but I can only eat a select few of their products that aren’t in a shared facility as peanuts because I had a cross-contact reaction to trace amounts of peanuts in their coconut whipped cream. I greatly appreciate that So Delicious discloses this information to the consumer so that people can make an informed decision and know the risk. I do not like how Annie’s is operating and labeling since it feels misleading.
Since I have had scary, life-threatening allergic reactions to products made on shared equipment with peanuts before, I avoid them now, and I don’t trust any cleaning process. I do not eat products labeled “made in a shared facility with peanuts” for the same reason. Now that we’ve been through COVID-19, I know that rapid & swab tests used in the medical community aren’t to a 100% success rate and accuracy, so I assume the same goes for the very similar tests made for food. In my opinion, there is still risk there if my life-threatening allergen was on the equipment and in the facility, spreading minuscule particles too small for the human eye to see everywhere around the plant, on the floors, on the bottoms of people’s shoes, getting on people’s gloves and clothes, in the air, etc.
I’m not trying to single out Annie’s Homegrown here, but this is a prime example of misleading labeling in the U.S., which is allowed by the FDA and unregulated. Right now in the U.S., anyone can slap a “peanut-free” label or “may contain” label without defining what that means. The product could contain peanuts, and there would be no consequence. To put it plainly, there’s no reason for Annie’s as a company to be inquiring from farm-to-product if they aren’t releasing the information to the consumer in the end on if it’s made in a shared facility with their deadly allergen or on shared but cleaned equipment. I also don’t see the point in doing this ingredient research unless they’re using separate facilities to sort allergen segregation and make a certified allergen-free product.
This example explains why I call brands to inquire about products and what allergens are in the facility before eating and why I continue periodically to ask about their labeling practices and allergens in the facility. Once I’ve found a brand that doesn’t use peanuts in the facility, I’ll try to stick to those when shopping for ease. Looking back, when I called Annie’s Homegrown previously, I misunderstood their labeling and did trust it, especially due to their misleading FAQ page. I wanted to make sure to post this update in case I’ve recommended their brand before on Invisibly Allergic, because while I used to eat it often, I no longer do. I urge you to inquire further with them to learn more. If you’re ever unhappy with their practices or feel it’s misleading, or come across any misleading practices at any company, I am a big believer in letting the company know so they can hopefully make the changes their customers want to see.
Are there any other products you’ve learned label for ‘peanut-free,” “allergen-free,” or leave off “may contain” statements after cleaning equipment? Leave a comment below if so or send me a message!
This was my follow-up email to them. If you would prefer they label and disclose to consumers if your allergen was ever on shared equipment or in the same facility, I suggest you write/call them, too:
Hello! I have a severe peanut allergy and wanted to share my feedback on your labeling. I have always liked Annie’s products and purchased them not only because you label for “may contain” but since it’s quality and organic. I was disappointed when I called to inquire on a box of your macaroni and cheese to see if it was made on shared equipment as peanuts at any point or in a shared facility with peanut ingredients and learned that you do not give out this information. I have always trusted your “may contain” statements, but now I understand I should not have been. I felt your FAQ addressing allergens a little misleading, I wanted to recommend that you label for “may contain” even if you wash and test the shared equipment, so people know there is still a slight risk. I personally do not feel comfortable, and have had reactions to this type of labeling before, so I sadly will have to stop buying your products. I would love if there’s more transparency from your end to the consumer on if there are peanuts/allergens in the facility with a product, and if it was at any point on shared equipment with their deadly allergen. Please let me know your thoughts.
I hope this helps others make informed choices! 🙂 Here’s to working towards getting the FDA in the United States to require more transparent food labeling practices, labeling for the top allergens in the same facility as products.
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