Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fighting Cross Contamination---a Response to B Nutty

Sign on Kroger Deli Case @ Tiger Town Location, Opelika, AL
I have apparently stepped on Kroger’s contaminated toes. 

On July 6, 2012, I posted a picture of the sign on the deli display case warning that all products in that case “may have come in contact with” and went on to list all eight of the recognized allergens. The sign is prominently displayed in several places on all the deli cases and the fresh meat cases at the Kroger located in the Tiger Town shopping center in Opelika. The signs warn that all the products in the case may be contaminated with one or more of the allergens. This means that Kroger does not control what comes into contact with what in the cases. This is scary, because many of the items are raw meats, including chicken and fish.

Granted, I do not know about Kroger deli and meat counters at other locations, but I do know about the one where I shop. We take the signs seriously and believe them when they say they do not know what is going on in their cases (and by inference on their slicers as well). Heeding those signs, we cannot purchase any meat from those counters in Kroger at the Tiger Town location.

Today, I was going through my inbox box after a long and emotional weekend, but that is another story. I ran across a less than flattering email from a person going by the name on Blogger as B Nutty. When I looked this person up, there wasn’t a single post, no picture and no profile, and here is the part I love—they have only been on Blogger since September 2012 and today is on September 4th. The wording was much in the tone of a man.

Humm, just who could this possibly be? Obviously, someone who does not want to be identified for sure. A coward who stands behind a bogus account to send me an email about a post I put up about two months ago. Sounds like a Kroger employee to me. And, that is a good thing! I may have finally gotten their attention.

But, let’s don’t get side tracked from the mission here, which is to call attention to seriousness of cross contamination in a store, any store, of a product, in this case Boar’s Head products, which are all guaranteed to be gluten free. Publix groceries, in contrast to Kroger, has dedicated Boar’s Head deli cases and uses dedicated equipment, thereby insuring the integrity and safety of this particular product. Guess where we buy our sandwich meat? You got it—Publix.

This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Cross contamination, whether in the manufacturing facility or at the point of sale in the store, is a very real threat to all eating a mandated gluten free diet. The companies responsible really don’t seem to care if someone gets sick on their watch. Neither anyone in management nor their employees are the ones to get sick; those who are Celiac or severely gluten intolerant do!

So, what can we do to help stop this practice? Here is a short list that anyone with a computer, and if you are reading this you certainly have the power to help, can do:
  1. Send emails to companies like Kroger, complaining about their cross contamination and ask them to dedicate equipment and cases to be free of ANY cross contamination.
  2. Send an e-mail to companies, such as Boar’s Head, who are doing their best to provide gluten products only to have the gluten free integrity of their products compromised at the store.
  3. Report such practices to your local health departments. They may not be able to change company policy, but the store will be put on notice they are being watched.
  4. Go to http://www.fda.gov/ and voice your concerns/complaints about (a) a specific problem of cross contamination or failure of a company to properly identify possible contact with the eight recognized allergens, (b) ask for stiffer food allergen labeling laws to include GLUTEN as a recognized allergen and (c) stiffer penalties for companies who do not comply.
  5. Go to http://www.senate.gov/, click on the “Contact Your Senator” link to (a) ask specifically for stricter labeling laws to include GLUTEN and (b) stiffer penalties for companies who do not comply.
  6. Go to http://www.house.gov/, put your zip code in the link to “Find Your Representative” to (a) ask specifically for stricter labeling laws to include GLUTEN and (b) stiffer penalties for companies who do not comply.

There is an old proverb that goes something like this: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, it is going to take the entire gluten free community to change food allergen labeling laws and company penalties for non-compliance. Together, we can make a difference and make our voices heard to keep our loved ones safe.

To B Nutty, I say thanks for reminding me to keep Kroger’s practices in front of the people who can make your company change its practices. Without your email, I might not have revisited this subject for a few months. Thanks B Nutty for inspiring me and refueling my fire!

Author: Dr. Jacquelyn P. Horne
Copyright: 2012

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