Today, I received notice from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) that Odwalla Chocolate Protein drink, also known as Chocolate Protein Soy and Milk Protein Shake, is being recalled. The reason is that four U.S. consumers had severe allergic reactions to it. All these individuals are allergic to peanuts, and two of them also have known allergies to tree nuts. The full recall notice is at the bottom of this page.
Odwalla stated on its Facebook page that “This beverage contains no peanut or tree nut ingredients, and the production facility where it is produced does not make any peanut-containing products. While we have found no evidence of peanuts or tree nuts in the product at this point, in an abundance of caution to safeguard consumers, Odwalla is recalling this product while continuing to investigate the cause of the reactions.”
What caught my attention is that they confirmed no use of peanuts in the facility, but did not address tree nuts. I asked on their Facebook page: “Does the production facility make any tree nut containing products? Everything I’ve read confirms they don’t use peanuts, but do they use tree nuts? I appreciate any information you can provide.” In response, I was informed as follows: “Onespot Allergy, our facility does process products containing tree nuts, however we do not process any ingredients containing peanuts.”
I asked if they use pistachio or walnut in that facility, since they can cross react with peanuts. That is, people allergic to peanuts can also react to pistachios and walnuts. I also asked if the drink is made on the same equipment that processes tree nuts, or are the tree nuts only used on a separate line. At this point I was asked to call or email the company if I have any questions or thoughts I’d like to share with their team.
I looked through the Odwalla website, and found that ground almonds are in the Super Protein vanilla almond drink: http://www.odwalla.com/products/SuperProteinVanillaAlmondo.jsp I’m wondering if almond protein cross contaminated the Chocolate Protein drink. While two consumers who had reactions only reported allergy to peanuts, they could also be allergic to tree nuts, or the almonds could have been contaminated with peanut protein during shelling and roasting, since it’s often done on shared equipment.
I also found that some Odwalla food bars contain walnuts, peanuts, or almonds. I could not determine if they’re made in the same facility as the protein drinks and juices. Of concern is that some bars say “oats may contain traces of wheat.” However, the nut containing bars do not say “contains peanut or tree nuts” and the ones without nuts in the recipe do not say “may contain traces of peanut, almond, and walnut.” Because of the disclosure of traces of wheat on some bars, allergic consumers could easily be misled into thinking that potential contamination with top allergens is disclosed, and not have the information they need to decide if these bars are safe for them to eat.
Odwalla chose to disclose potential wheat contamination but failed to disclose potential peanut and tree nut contamination. In my opinion, the risk of cross-contamination should have been disclosed on every Odwalla product made in a facility that uses peanuts or tree nuts. This shifts the burden of liability to allergic consumers to use this information to decide if the foods are safe for them to eat. Some disregard “may contain” labels, some would call the company to assess the risk themselves, others (like me) would decide the products are not safe for them to consume.
Fatal food anaphylaxis is most often caused by peanuts (50-62%) and tree nuts (15-30%).** Odwalla should immediately either remove peanuts and tree nuts from their facilities or disclose that they are there. It should not take four severe allergic reactions to prove this point.
UPDATE April 11, 2012: More consumers have reported reactions to this product. Details are here: http://www.dairyreporter.com/Regulation-Safety/Odwalla-reveals-new-consumer-reports-of-allergic-reactions-to-dairy-based-beverage
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** Source Keet CA, Wood RA. Food allergy and anaphylaxis. Immunol Allergy Clin N Am. 2007;27:193-212
ODWALLA CHOCOLATE PROTEIN BEVERAGE
Dinuba, CA, April 5 – Odwalla, Inc. is recalling in Canada Odwalla Chocolate Protein beverage in 355mL bottles with “enjoy by” dates prior to and including 2012 MA 23 because of reports in the United States from consumers allergic to peanuts or peanuts and tree nuts who experienced severe allergic reactions after consuming this beverage. There have been no reports of adverse reactions in Canada.
Odwalla is commencing a recall in the United States for a similar product sold under the name Odwalla Chocolate Protein Monster.
The product being recalled is Odwalla Chocolate Protein beverage in 355mL bottles with “enjoy by” dates prior to and including 2012 MA 23, UPC code 014054135892. The beverage labels carry the brand name “Odwalla” and the descriptors “Chocolate Protein Soy and Milk Protein Shake.” Specific “enjoy by” dates can be found printed on the neck of the bottles. The product is distributed through retail food stores and on-premise food service establishments in Canada.
Odwalla Chocolate Protein contains no peanut or tree nut ingredients, and the production facility where it is produced does not make any peanut-containing products. However, Odwalla is recalling the product because consumers allergic to peanuts or peanuts and tree nuts in the US experienced severe allergic reactions.
Odwalla Chocolate Protein contains soy and dairy ingredients, to which some consumers are allergic. However, the presence of soy and dairy ingredients in Odwalla Chocolate Protein is clearly disclosed on the product label by the statement that the product “contains soy and milk protein.” The soy and dairy ingredients are also declared in the ingredients list.
Odwalla Chocolate Protein beverage may cause a serious or life-threatening reaction in persons with an allergy or severe sensitivity to peanuts or peanuts and tree nuts. Consumers who are allergic to peanuts or peanuts and tree nuts should not drink Odwalla Chocolate Protein. Consumers having Odwalla Chocolate Protein product with the specified “enjoy by” dates are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions can contact Odwalla by calling 1-800-639-2552.
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