Tuesday, January 18, 2011

An open letter to Henry's or any Health Food Store who wants to be the leader in the industry for "Allergy Friendly Stores"

To Whom It May Concern:

I shop at Carlsbad (El Camino Real) Henry's Farmers Market almost daily. As a parent of a child with several food allergies, I cook from scratch a lot and seek gluten and casein free products which you as a health food store specialize in.

Unfortunately there is one place in your store that fails miserably at catering to families like mine. That place is labeling, especially labeling in the deli. I have found other mistakes, but the deli is the most blatant. Three times I have brought it to the attention of management that the listed ingredients in the BBQ Beans are mislabeled and could kill someone. YES I SAID KILL SOMEONE!!! Not listed on the ingredients list that is in the deli refrigerator area are soy and wheat. The majority of BBQ beans and Baked Beans contain soy sauce. 99% of all soy sauce contains Wheat. Anyone with an anaphylactic allergy to an undisclosed ingredient could go immediately into anaphylactic shock if eating this product, due to your mislabeling. According to http://www.allergy-clinic.co.uk/more-about-allergy/anaphylaxis/. “The most common cause of anaphylaxis in the community is from eating a food to which you are allergic such as nuts, peanuts, eggs, mammalian milk, soya, wheat, fish and shellfish. These 8 foods account for 90% of cases of food induced anaphylaxis. Peanuts and tree nuts (such as Brazil nuts, Hazelnuts, Almonds and Walnuts) are the foods most likely to provoke a reaction.”

After reading the actual label I can tell you that more than just those ingredients are missing.

Considering your company caters to families like mine who seek gluten free and other allergy friendly products, I am requesting that you perform allergy training with ALL your employees. In my opinion it should be training upon hiring and that you should also have training on this subject yearly to make sure that it is fresh in everyone’s minds. I also think that every time a product vendor changes the manager in that section should compare the printed label for the deli section to the new ingredients list.

As a parent of a child with allergies, I prefer the time to read the label myself then to have something mislabeled. I have been doing this 6.5 years and am not the average parent. I have a learned to adapt and have a keen sense on what does and does not have wheat, which is how I caught the BBQ Beans. Unfortunately not every parent is me, and especially new parents, they have to rely on correct labeling.

I also feel that when a question about labeling comes up, that any employee should be empowered to pull either the product or the labeling immediately until management can be consulted on the issue. The reason I feel this way is because theprevious 2 times that stand out in my mind the employee said ok I will let the manager know and left the mislabeled product on the shelf. The 1st was with an Ian’s product in the freezer section. Ian’s clearly uses red for gluten free products and blue for non- gluten free products. When the employee did nothing, I took down the gluten free sign and placed it with the appropriate product. The 2nd was in the fresh bread isle, a non-gluten free product was misplaced. I handed it to the worker and she promptly placed it back on the shelf and said she would tell a manager. I again promptly said that is not good enough and moved the label and the bread to a different shelf myself.

I fear my letter will discourage you from labeling. I really and truly do not want it to do that. I want it to encourage you to be proactive and be the standard the rest of the health food stores strives to live up to their standards. As food allergies increase we need more stand up companies, who make the effort to support our causes. Families like mine drive to stores who do this; a great example of this is a small family owned store in San Clemente, CA called Stella Lucy’s. I will drive the 26.3 miles, plus traffic, to check out what new gluten free products they have found that my local health food stores have not. I then test the products on my family and see how well I think they will sell locally. Once I have done that, I encourage my local stores to carry the products. I think Patrick of the Carlsbad (El Camino Real) Henry's Farmers Market can attest to. 3 products I have requested and 1 that I requested to be brought back are doing quite well in the Carlsbad Store. Maybe it is time for Henry’s to look into hiring someone with a child with food allergies to help at the corporate level with the decisions on what will and will not sell. Your own Sun Harvest brand of Organic Baked Beans, I purchased off the shelf, according to the label is in fact gluten, wheat, and soy free, it would be a great addition to your deli selections.

In closing I am asking you to stand up in the health food store industry and be the leader in allergy standards, make Whole Foods, Sprouts, Trader Joes, Frazier Farms and the other health foods stores want to be you.

Sincerely a loyal customer who shops Henry’s before any other store and almost daily,

Shannon Primer, parent to Austin Primer age 9 allergic to Gluten (wheat, rye, oats, and barley), milk (casein), egg and apple, who hopes to change the world of every person who has a food allergy.

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