We recently received a report from a reader whose daughter has a severe peanut allergy, warning us of an issue with a product listed in the Safe Snack Guide, our catalog of peanut, tree nut and egg-free foods.
The bag of Dubble Bubble bubble gum – a Tootsie product – was purchased at a local CVS and bore CVS “Gold Emblem” labeling:
Tootsie Roll Industries is a member of the SnackSafely.com Manufacturer Partnership, and as such provides us with detailed processing information regarding the 11 allergens we track for many of their products. Their manufacturing facilities are free of peanuts and tree nuts and their products are listed as such in the Guide as well as in Allergence, our interactive product screening service. Here is the Allergen Profile from the Allergence listing for Dubble Bubble:
The problem presents itself when the bag is flipped over to reveal the ingredient and nutritional information. The following statement appears below the ingredients:
It’s evident that the repacking facility for this CVS Gold Emblem bag also repackages other products in the same facility that contain peanuts, tree nuts and a host of other allergens.
We contacted Tootsie Roll Industries for clarity regarding their policies for the repackaging of their products. Here is the official statement from the firm:
A very small proportion of our products are purchased in bulk by other manufacturers who then place our products into their packages, either as stand-alone bags, or as part of a candy mix. All of our products are free of major allergens, as labeled, when they leave our facilities, but Tootsie Roll Industries cannot guarantee that the outside repackaging facilities are allergen free.
We asked a followup question regarding whether individually wrapped Tootsie products are shipped to repackagers already individually wrapped. He responded:
All of our candies and gums that are intended to be individually wrapped are in fact wrapped as such by Tootsie Roll Industries before they leave our facility. We are not aware of any outside parties or re-baggers that individually wrap our candy or gum pieces, but we can’t guarantee that it never happens.
Given that repackaging is a common practice for many large retailers and well-known brands, please note our recommendations when purchasing products for individuals with food allergies:
- Always double-check the label – even when you are purchasing a trusted product from a trusted manufacturer. Aside from the fact that the product’s ingredients, manufacturing processes and disclosures may change at any time, the variety you are about to purchase may in fact have been packaged by in a third-party repacking facility;
- Avoid repackaged products such as those offered by retailers unless you know the risk. While we applaud the disclosure CVS provides on their repackaging of Dubble Bubble, their statements regarding the potential for cross-contamination are not mandatory and may not be included by other repackagers for other retailers, who likely repackage many other products from other manufacturers. Opt for product that is packaged directly by the manufacturer;
- When in doubt, contact the consumer information service listed on the package. Be ready to provide them with the UPC bar code information, name of product and package size. Ask them whether the product you are inquiring about was repackaged in a separate facility and if so, whether that facility processes or repackages products containing your allergens of concern. If the service is not forthcoming or the answers are unsatisfactory, avoid the product.
Our thanks to our reader, who wished to remain anonymous. We encourage you to contact us whenever you have a question or concern with a product that appears in the Safe Snack Guide or Allergence.