Since March 30, when Kellogg’s quietly disclosed they would begin adding peanut flour to crackers, we at SnackSafely.com have been inundated with questions by a concerned public. In this post, we’ll address the three that dominate the discussion by far.
How can Kellogg’s put people at risk like this… aren’t they concerned about being sued?
For the answer to this, we need look no further than Kellogg’s 2015 Annual Report to shareholders, published this January. Page 9, paragraph 4 states the company’s perspective very clearly:
ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
[…] We may also be liable if the consumption of any of our products causes injury, illness or death. A widespread product recall or market withdrawal could result in significant losses due to their costs, the destruction of product inventory, and lost sales due to the unavailability of product for a period of time. We could also suffer losses from a significant product liability judgment against us. A significant product recall or product liability case could also result in adverse publicity, damage to our reputation, and a loss of consumer confidence in our food products, which could have a material adverse effect on our business results and the value of our brands.
In other words, the Kellogg Company is very aware their business decisions – like this one to add peanuts to snacks – could result in “injury, illness or death”. But these are simply risk factors in a much larger calculation that affords little consideration of the human cost beyond how an adverse event might tarnish their reputation.
Implicit in their decision is that the company – having weighed the risks and rewards – has determined that adding peanut flour will benefit the stockholders despite the potential injury it might cause to their allergic consumers.
Why is Kellogg’s adding peanut flour in the first place?
Kellogg’s won’t say, except to double down and assure us that they needed to make this ingredient change and that it was a very hard decision for them.
There are three reasons to add peanut flour to existing products: (1) to increase the protein content, (2) to decrease the carb content, and (3) to make the product more cheaply by substituting peanuts for wheat. In a recent message from the company, Kellogg’s rules out (1) by insisting the decision was not made to increase the protein content of their products:
Hello Mr. Bloom,
Thank you for your message and for sharing your perspective with us.
Food safety is of the utmost importance to Kellogg and we take your comments and concerns very seriously.
The ingredient change on the eight varieties that we previously communicated was made because of modifications to our manufacturing process, and not in an attempt to raise the protein level of any product, as you suggest in your blog post. In fact, the protein content will not be impacted by the ingredient change.
As we said in our letter to parents, this decision wasn’t easy, and we are committed to looking at ways to provide more sandwich crackers made without peanut ingredients in the future.
Thank you, again, for your email.
Once again, the company adopts an extremely patronizing tone but refuses to answer the very simple straightforward question at the crux of this issue: WHY ARE THEY DOING THIS?
If Kellogg’s indeed had some altruistic reason for making this radical change to venerable products, they would have explained their decision in a press release instead of surreptitiously burying their disclosure on the interior page of a food allergy advocacy’s site.
Our response to Kellogg’s does little to belie our frustration with the company’s continued stonewalling and evasiveness:
Thanks for your reply. Unfortunately, it sheds little light on Kellogg’s actions and intentions.
Kellogg’s response that it needed to make labeling changes “because of modifications to our manufacturing process” is circuitous. We understand the company needed to change the labeling after adding peanut flour to the products. What we don’t understand – and what the company continues to sidestep – is WHY Kellogg’s decided to add peanut flour to these varieties despite the danger such an action presents.
The company continually repeats the mantra that they needed to make this change and that the decision wasn’t easy. WHY? WHY was the decision made, WHY did the company deem it necessary, and HOW IS IT that the company can remove the allergen again from one variety in September if this manufacturing change was necessary?
Let me be absolutely clear what we in the community need to know so there is no misunderstanding:
- WHY has Kellogg’s chosen to add peanut flour to these crackers?
- IS THIS A PRELUDE to Kellogg’s adding peanut flour to other products across your extensive line?
- WHY did Kellogg’s not announce the introduction of this most allergenic ingredient in a press release in an effort to reach a broader audience?
- WHY did Kellogg’s not consult with their contacts in food allergy advocacy before making this decision?
If this decision wasn’t taken to raise the protein content/decrease the carbohydrate content or to simply manufacture the products more cheaply, then kindly explain WHY.
We look forward to a sincere, forthright response from Kellogg’s. But please, kindly convey to your management that they should refrain from insulting me or members of my community by rehashing the same half-answers in an effort to distract us from having our concerns addressed.
As of this writing, our petition has garnered over 22,000 signatures and continues to gain momentum, and it is only a matter of time before this issue is addressed by the traditional media. Kellogg’s should step up now and be honest with their most vulnerable customers, or find themselves addressing a much larger controversy by waiting.
Do we think Kellogg’s is involved in a vast conspiracy to introduce allergens to our nation’s food supply? No, not at all. But after the company’s denial that this was done to enhance their products’ nutritional content, we are left to believe they “needed” to make this change simply to reduce the cost of manufacture and increase their profit margin.
Will Kellogg’s stop with crackers or is it their plan to introduce peanuts across more of their product line?
We simply don’t know for sure, but we can make an educated guess in light of the company’s actions and refusal to address this question.
Kellogg’s made an internal decision to change the formulation of these products despite the fact that they have changed little over the years and were already highly profitable [page 25 paragraph 7 of the 2015 Annual Report]. Assuming the intent of adding peanut flour was to make these products even more profitable, the question then is why wouldn’t the company expand the addition across more of their product line?
We believe the addition of peanut flour to this segment is a test case, a prelude to swapping peanut flour for wheat flour in cookies, snacks and other products in order to systematically decrease the cost of ingredients of those products and by doing so increase profit margins.
Such a move will have catastrophic repercussions for peanut allergy sufferers – especially school age children – by introducing this most allergenic ingredient across a vast array of products, resulting in anaphylaxis to those who accidentally ingest them or come in contact with the residue left by others.
Make no mistake about it: the company considered the risks prior to taking this action and discounted the potential for adverse reactions, instead choosing to move forward with their plan without disclosing their reasons or intentions for doing so.
In answer, we encourage our readers to take action and push back on Kellogg’s reckless and irresponsible decision. Please continue to tweet, e-mail and voice (1-800-962-1413) your objections to Kellogg’s; sign and distribute the petition, and contact your local media and become the local champion to this cause. (See the amazing job this family has done.)
Remember, should Kellogg’s deem this test case a success, they may expand the introduction of peanut flour across other segments of their extensive product line exacerbating an already dangerous decision and leading other companies to follow suit. Only you and your continued activism will dissuade them from doing so.
Other articles related to Kellogg's Action:
- Media Briefing: Kellogg’s Intentionally Adding Allergens to Products
- Petition to Kellogg’s: Do NOT Add Peanut Flour to Your Products
- Adding Insult to Injury: Kellogg’s Botches Warning to Allergic Consumers
- Is Kellogg’s Putting the Allergic at Risk to Avoid the Costs of the FSMA?
- Kellogg’s: Potential for Injury, Illness and Death is a Cost of Doing Business
- Kellogg’s Responds to Petition with Even More Dangerous Plan
- Video: Kellogg’s Petition at 15,000 Signatures
- Press Release: Kellogg’s: Don’t Add Peanut Flour to Existing Products
- Kellogg Company 2015 Annual Report – SEC Form 10ͲK and Supplemental Information Fiscal Year End: January 2, 2016 – The Kellogg Company
- E-mail received by Dave Bloom sent from Kellogg’s representative
I just called the number above and was told by the woman who answered the phone (who is ironically allergic to peanuts) that they are reversing the decision on the Austin Grilled Cheese Sandwich cracker only and that the reason for that was due to the number of calls / complaints. So keep up the good work…may the rest of the product line follow!
Call Whine-one-one, because it sounds like somebody needs the Wah!-mublace. Okay, some people are allergic to peanuts, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world needs to walk on eggshells (peanut shells?) around them. I’m sure there will be allergey warnings. If so, don’t buy these products.
Unfortunately, peanut allergies cause serious anaphylaxis reactions, such as death. My child suffers from extension food allergies, however, he can eat pop tarts. While I understand Kellogg’s desire to add more protein to their carbohydrates, the least desirable flour is peanut flour. There is quinoa and chick pea, etc. Since I would rather see my child alive, I support those people you claim are “whining” about this issue. You may not recall but several years ago, two teenagers kissed, one who had eaten peanut butter and one who was allergic. The one who was allergic died. I’m sure you would want to protect you loved ones against such a tragedy.
It is not just a case of ‘If so, don’t buy these products.’ for the allergy community, it could mean that if these crackers are now made in the same factory as any of their other products or indeed, the factory is leased to other companies making nut free products, that from this alone, i.e. adding peanut flour, there can now be contamination, trace issues with other products produced in the same factory. You should also be aware, that it might be easy for you to call the allergy community whiners, that it is in fact, getting more difficult to purchase safe ready made foods. People are therefore not ‘whining’ they are fighting to survive safely and trying to advocate their right’s to safe food to be produced. Perhaps, when you come into contact with someone who suffers true allergies or indeed intolerances, you might now be a tad more educated to the needs of these people, like any other community of illnesses, and in being more informed, perhaps also, sound a bit more caring for others and their right’s as well as your own?
Would you eat something if the label read “May contain poison”? Would you support a company’s decision to add Anthrax to its products? If someone were eating something and sitting beside you would you mind if it contained Cyanide dust that you might inhale or that might touch you?
IT IS THE SAME THING. Some people are immune to this poison, but millions are not, and risk death daily whether they buy or eat the items .
Does peanut flour make the crackers gluten free? I find that the trend for gluten free (not those allergic to gluten or with celiac) is causing a lot of products to change. And to the person who made the comment about walking on egg shells, try walking in my shoes as a parent of a child who could die from ingesting a tiny bit.
So don’t buy them. You can’t really expect the world to cater to the needs of your little special snowflake, can you? If so, he is in for a rude awakening. Raise him so he does not think he is the center of the universe.
It’s sad to see the ignorance in your comment. People like you are the ones who have this world in a spin. I think the only snowflake is the one pointing their finger at someone because they are so closed minded they cannot seem to reason or understand. May you never have a snowflake of your own Missy. Get you will be singing another tune. The issue at hand is not that a Child or person have to buy the product, that’s the easy part boycotting the company and their products is very easy. However, other children or person will be eating this poison, and contaminating their surroundings because they do not wash their hands after consuming the contaminated product and they will be the cause of ending someone else’s life. I do not have peanut allergies, and I don’t eat peanuts in airplanes or theatres to avoid someone from getting sick. I learned that the world doesn’t just revolve around me. I love someone with FA. Do some research, learn and nderstand.
The bottom line is that Kellogg’s decided to do it. They are a private company (publicly traded) and as such can do whatever they damned well please (within the law). If you don’t like the decision the company made, don’t by the product. If you decide to consume the product anyway, then the fault is yours if you (your child) has a negative reaction. These companies are not here to make sure your fragile environment is not altered, they exists to make money for themselves and their stockholders. Can’t handle peanut flour, find a different snack cracker to eat. Kellogg’s will listen to their bottom line, their balance sheet
Who are all these people whining about “special snowflakes” on an allergy website? Read the back story, people. It’s not that there is nut flour in the crackers. It’s not that we can’t simply avoid purchasing these products. THOSE are not the issues. The issue is that Kellogg’s are essentially sneaking nuts into an existing product that people have been eating in nut-free schools, sports programs, etc., for years.
How do you intend to inform every parent of a non-allergic child across America that this snack shouldn’t be sent with their kid to his or her peanut-free classroom? Normal people don’t check the label EVERY time. Normal people will miss this change. That’s why we parents of allergic kids have to speak up, so “normal” people don’t accidentally expose our children.
This scenario creates a high likelihood of cross-contamination and/or accidental ingestion. All they had to do was create a new product, rather than sneak nuts into a familiar one, and people would not be up in arms.
Sneaking them in by issuing a press release, relabeling, and calling attention to the fact that there are more people with diabetes who need a low glycemic index diet or with a gluten intolerance than there are with peanut allergies.
Brands have value. That familiar look, packaging, etc. are “goodwill” and is a line on the asset column of their balance sheet. Why should a company, and its shareholders, forfeit that value and incur significant brand development cost so that you and your children don’t have to read a label?
Your safety is your responsibility.
Wow. People have actually gone out of their way to write unkind things on a food allergy site. They obviously don’t understand or care to understand what it must be like to go through life with a severe food allergy. One that can kill you. Peanuts are the most deadly. Children will probably pay the ultimate price so Kellogg can get around the new food label laws. So what if some children die because they accidentally ate an innocent looking cheese sandwich cracker at a party? Since the peanut flour is the very last ingredient, it won’t smell or taste like peanuts to give them some kind of warning when minutes count. Minutes is all that severely allergic people have to use an epi-pen and even then it may not be enough. Since food allergies only affect a small percentage of the population why should corporations or the rest of the population care? It is called empathy! Be a considerate human being and instead of writing hateful things because it doesn’t touch your family or friends, sign the petition so companies like Kellogg ‘ s aren’t allowed to skirt the law in the name of profits. People before profits…even if it isn’t YOUR people.
My son suffers from peanut and tree nut allergies. We almost lost him in the ER after being exposed to such foods – it took 3 shots of epi to bring him back. He was only 9 months old.
That being said, I really don’t care what Kellogg’s does with their products and the use of peanut flour. I stopped buying their products years ago. There is NOTHING HEALTHY about their processed foods. They cause cancer and obesity. So frankly, if you have a peanut or tree nut allergy and you are upset by this, look to healthier options for you and your children. Who wants to eat a bunch of chemicals when you can bake the foods yourself? People, we live a world of convenience. Get over it and just stop buying Kellogg’s. Who wants to eat a bunch of red dye 40 anyway?
I agree the products are not healthy and my son doesn’t eat them. I’m worried about the kids that do eat them. Not all families, care takers, or friends are super careful and that bit of peanut flour can kill. Our kids won’t die because Kellogg’s decided to add peanut flour to skirt new safety laws, but likely someone else’s child will.