Product recalls increase in freefrom sector

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Wheat, Food standards agency

Recalls of free-from products could undermine trust
Recalls of free-from products could undermine trust
Recalls of free-from products are rising rapidly as the market grows to meet demand.

Last month Tesco recalled certain date codes of its Free From Pure Oat Fruit Muesli and Free From Pure Porridge Oats, because the product might contain low levels of gluten, which was not declared on pack. At the same time, Sainsbury recalled batches of its own-brand Freefrom Pure Oats, as its testing found low levels of gluten in some packs.

Asda also recalled some of its Chosen by You Oat Muesli and Chosen by You Porridge Oats, as a number of packs might contain undeclared gluten. And the Co-op recalled some of its Free From Pure Oat Muesli, for the same reason.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) would not confirm whether these incidents were related as a result of products being sourced from the same own-label supplier for "commercially sensitive"​ reasons. But it does illustrate how more widespread incorrect allergy labelling problems are likely to become as the market grows.

The FSA also last month issued a recall for certain date codes of product made by branded producer, Delicious Alchemy's Gluten Free Rolled Oats and Original Gluten Free Purely Oaty Fruity Nut Muesli, because some might have contained gluten.

The FSA reported that there were 34 allergy alerts in 2010. Data for 2011 is not yet available.

Own-label free-from products account for around 50% of new product launches in this sector in the UK, according to David Jago, global research director for Mintel. He says the gluten- and wheat-free sector is worth around £135M in sales in the UK and is growing at around 10% annually.

But it isn't only the smaller branded producers that fall foul of this sort of problem. A packaging error resulted in bags of Walkers salt and vinegar crisps (25g) within Walkers multi-packs being labelled incorrectly as containing milk lactose and dried milk. This was inconsistent with the outer packaging of the multi-packs.

According to new market research from gluten- and wheat-free specialist Dr Schär UK, consumer spending on gluten- and wheat-free products is based on "trust"​ rather than price, despite the current economic climate.

The research, by an independent agency, found that loyalty to products outweighed that of brands and manufacturers, said Dr Schär, with many gluten-free consumers choosing to buy products based on their taste, quality and ingredients rather than price and brand, then purchasing habitually once they found a product they liked.

Emma Herring, retail brand manager at Dr Schär UK, said: "Many gluten- and wheat-free consumers have learnt not to instinctively trust new products and so rely on heritage products and brands that they know well."

Related topics: Food Safety

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1 comment

Sainsburys Gluten Free Oats

Posted by Adrian Melton,

Why can they not tell me when the contaminated product was available to buy, ie on the supermarket shelf? Why will they not tell me the possible levels of gluten in the product? Why does the customer service manager at my local store walk away from me when I try to get answers?

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