Food Allergies and Thanksgiving

Well, my food allergic child ate chicken on Thanksgiving. He was fine with it, but I really wasn't.

When I picked up my "free turkey" (translation: spend $300 in our grocery store and we'll give you a Thanksgiving turkey), I noticed that the ingredients listed an "8% basting solution". I made a note to myself to call the 800 number on the back. My question was simple:

What is in the turkey broth and the flavorings in the basting solution?

Okay, I shouldn't have waited until the morning before Thanksgiving. But, I've called dozens of manufacturers in the past and always got a quick response to my allergen questions.

I started with the phone number listed on the label. It lead me to a recording about directory assistance and charging me $3.79 for a call. I hung up. Then I contacted the corporate office of the grocery store as it was a store brand product. A nice lady said she would connect me to their nutritionist. Wonderful! I got dumped into her voice mail which alerted me she was out of the office for the holiday.

I called the corporate office again and asked to be connected to Customer Service. The customer service rep said, "I don't have that kind of information. I can file a report for you, though."

I asked to speak to whomever she would be sending the report to. Not possible I was told. I asked to speak to a supervisor. No one is available I was told.

Now, mind you, I was hosting Thanksgiving dinner the following day. I had pies to bake and silver to polish and a house to clean. I needed to talk to someone in the know- NOW!

I gave her the information to "file her report".

"You do understand that I need this information today?" I asked. Okay- I was getting a bit snippy at this point.

"I can't guarantee anything" I was told.

Great. I wanted to brine the turkey, so I removed the packaging with the incorrect phone number. "Giblets included" the label said. Hmmm....a neck, but no giblets. "Pop-up timer" the back of the label proclaimed. Not a timer in sight.

I contacted the local office of the store. A nice woman there told me that she didn't have that information, but she'd walk over to the meat area and ask a manager there and would call me back. Never heard from the nice lady again.

Thanksgiving Eve- I called my local store and asked to talk to the meat department manager. "We'd get in big trouble if we didn't list the big allergens on the label" he said. "If it doesn't say "milk" or "egg' on the label, it's not in there. Trust the label."

Oh, the label with the incorrect phone number and the wrong information regarding giblets and a pop-up timer? Trust that label?

So, I served the turkey and a safe chicken breast. It was still a wonderful dinner. We have much to be thankful for.


Karen said...

We have all been their, far too many times.

Joshua Davidson, M.D., M.P.H. said...

I'm sorry for all the stress you experienced surrounding Thanksgiving. I'm also thankful that your dinner went forward without any complications! I'm an allergist in Torrance, CA, and I specialize in food allergies and eczema. I applaud your vigilance in looking out for suspect foods in odd places, like broth and a turkey. Patients and families with food allergies face the same trouble you described all the time, and your story conveys how difficult it can be. I'm sure you're aware of FAAN, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, but they have amazing resources for questions such as yours. Please feel free to visit my website for more information as well. I maintain a blog where I recently covered the topic of "Food Allergies and Holidays." Take care, and keep up the good work. -Dr. Davidson,

Jana said...

I'm a little confused who the meat department manager would be in trouble with?? Meat falls under the USDA and not the FDA who mandates labelling the top eight allergens since FALCPA. So since we never know which meat companies are opting to follow the FDA guidelines we never can trust the label without further investigation. But I've found that some meat handlers don't realize that it's not mandatory for them.
Glad it was safe!

Unknown said...

That's a great point , Jana.

Jeesh, the store probably didn't know who to send me to, so they grabbed the closest customer standing by and said, "Talk to this woman!"

I'll give you "trust the label!"

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