Leading allergy charity ‘disappointed’ at Alpro production move

The Anaphylaxis Campaign has written to leading dairy-free brand Alpro expressing concern at the company’s decision to move production of its nut drinks to facilities that are currently nut-free.

Alpro will move production of its almond and hazelnut products in-house later in the year in order, says the company, to increase control of quality and efficiency. The relocation will affect Alpro’s dairy-free products sold in the UK, including the Provamel range, which will now carry a ‘may contain traces of almond or hazelnut’ warning on packs.

The charity said in a statement that it is disappointed that “Alpro, as a trusted manufacturer of excellent food products that were suitable for the allergic community, have decided to make these changes to their production, despite the negative impact it will have on the diets and quality of life of many of its customers”. The letter was also signed by the president of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology, a paediatric allergy dietician from St Thomas’ Hospital and the chair of the Food Allergy Specialist Group of the British Dietetic Association.

The Anaphylaxis Campaign added that the move could directly affect about 300,000 children and their families within the UK.

Amanda Pitt, from Bristol retailer The Better Food Company, commented on the decision: “I think it’s thoroughly disappointing. I don’t think they’re considering the impact on individual customers. I think they’re putting their cost-saving exercises over the specialised dietary needs of some of their customers, which I think is disappointing since it’s those customers who built that brand. It seems like another nail in the coffin for people with specialist dietary needs.”

Ursula Brogan of On the Eighth Day said: “For people who’ve been using the products regularly, and who find they now can’t, I can see that this will be very annoying – it’s reducing choices.”

Another retailer told NP: “I don’t think companies are aware that when they tinker with formulations or labelling that they risk alienating specialist retailers and their customers.”

Despite strong reactions from both consumers and allergy groups – including the setting up of a social media campaign, Alpro: Save our Soya – Alpro says it remains committed to merged production. “The decision is made,” Alpro UK’s commercial director John Allaway told The Grocer. “We are sorry that as a result, individuals with such allergies have to look for another solution.”

On its website Alpro states: “Although there is no legal requirement to mention potential cross contamination on labels when all good manufacturing practices are taken to avoid it, we decided to explicitly inform consumers about the integration of almond and hazelnut manufacturing at Alpro production sites”. However, the Anaphylaxis Campaign says that since official advice to nut allergy sufferers is avoid products carrying ‘may contain traces of nuts’ warnings, this labelling practice effectively means sufferers have to eliminate products or food groups from their diet.

Alpro has already started to adapt its packaging ahead of the relocation.

• The group behind the Save Our Soya face book page says Alpro’s John Allaway has invited members to a meeting for an “open discussion” of the issues around its campaign.