My husband buys Clif® Bars from time to time, which I steal from his stash when I need a quick snack. I read the label of the coconut chocolate chip flavor and saw that it had a “may contain” statement, which is the type of labeling I look for when assessing the safety of a product for my peanut and nut allergic son. In other words, when I read a label through and there are no peanuts or tree nuts in the actual ingredients and I see a “may contain” statement (which is voluntary, not mandatory), I expect that the manufacturer would include a warning about peanut and tree nuts in that statement, if there is a risk of exposure to those two most deadly allergens. Seeing a clean ingredients list and a “may contain” statement that does not include our allergens normally means that this is a product I can trust.
Specifically, this bar said “may contain traces of wheat, milk, rye, and triticale.” I thought, “Wow, they’re labeling for traces of rye and triticale and they’re not even required to do that. This must be thorough and accurate allergen labeling.” Unfortunately, I was wrong.
I visited the website for Clif Bar and found that their allergen chart shows that almost every Clif Bar may contain peanuts. In case it is removed from their website, I’ve preserved the allergen chart below. This allergen information of course causes me concern, so I wrote to Clif Bar on their Facebook page, and my comment was very professionally handled by whoever is in charge of their page.
I wrote on December 24, 2013:
Hi Clif Bar! When you’re back online, could you please help me with this question? I just read the ingredients on the coconut chocolate chip bar, which does not contain peanuts or nuts and the “may contain” statement does not include peanuts or nuts. Online though, your allergen chart shows that everything may contain peanuts: http://www.clifbar.com/allergen#clif_bar The online allergen information also says that: “If you have a wrapper that doesn’t match what’s listed here, don’t worry. The information listed on that wrapper is correct for that product.” My son’s allergy to peanuts is severe, so I need to know which information to rely upon, the label or the website.
The next day, they wrote back to me to say:
Hey Elizabeth — We’ll have to check in with our Customer Service team on this one we we’re back in the office. We’ll be back in touch in early January!
I wrote back to them two weeks later as I hadn’t had a reply. Specifically, I wrote on January 8, 2014:
Hi Clif Bar! I haven’t heard anything yet, though maybe you’re just getting back to the office now. If you’d like to connect me directly to customer service by e-mail, rather than look into this on my behalf, that would be fine.
The next day, they wrote back to me that:
Happy New Year and thanks for your patience. Essentially, what you read on the label of the bar you have in your hand is what is accurate about that bar. Sometimes we have improved formulas for bars and include that on our site, but some of the bars with the original formulation are still in circulation during the transition. Let us know if you have any additional questions. Cheers!
This seemed very odd to me, since normally a website would be more current than the packaging. Often old packaging is used up well after processes change, and then the labels become current, not the other way around.
I replied on January 11, 2014:
Thank you for the allergen advice you supplied Clif Bar. So, going forward, do the labels on current bars match the information on the website? That is, do all the bars being made now say “may contain traces of peanuts and tree nuts”? As you do have a may contain statement, I hope it will include the reference to peanuts and tree nuts, otherwise one could easily think the bars are all safe, apart from the bars that actually have nuts or peanuts in the ingredients list.
I have had no further response from Clif Bar. For the best view of their allergen table, click on the image below and it will open full sized in a new window.
Their website allergen reference table clearly shows that most Clif Bars may contain traces of peanuts, and of course the chocolate chip peanut crunch, crunchy peanut butter, peanut toffee buzz, and sierra trail mix flavors actually contain peanuts, not just traces of them. There is a dash beside the apricot bar, the chocolate brownie bar, the coconut chocolate chip bar, and the pecan pie bar, which would indicate to me that they feel that trace contamination is not a problem for these bars. I would like to know why. If they’re made in a separate facility or on a separate line, I should have been provided with that explanation, not just the advice to trust the label.
Regarding tree nuts, the allergen reference table says that almost every flavor may contain tree nuts. Again, there is a dash beside the apricot, chocolate brownie, and coconut chocolate chip bars. Are they made separate from the nut containing bars, or are the labels and the website inaccurate?
I’m very confused, since the pecan pie flavor is indicated as not containing traces of peanut, and since it’s tree nut containing, that throws off my idea of a separate line. Of even more concern is the fact that the allergen chart shows that the pecan pie flavor may contain tree nuts, when I would expect it to say contains tree nuts, since pecans (a tree nut) are part of the ingredients, not just in issue regarding trace amounts.
Specifically, the pecan pie bar ingredients are:
Organic Brown Rice Syrup, ClifPro® (Soy Rice Crisps [Soy Protein Isolate, Rice Flour, Barley Malt Extract], Organic Roasted Soybeans, Organic Soy Flour), Organic Rolled Oats, Organic Pecans, Pecan Pralines (Organic Dried Cane Syrup, Pecan Pieces, Salt), Organic White Coating (Organic Dried Cane Syrup, Organic Cocoa Butter‡, Organic Soy Lecithin, Organic Vanilla Extract), Organic Cane Syrup, ClifCrunch® (Organic Oat Fiber, Inulin, Organic Psyllium), Organic Date Paste, Organic Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, Sea Salt, Organic Cinnamon, Natural Vitamin E (Antioxidant).
Until I hear back from Clif Bar, I will treat every type of bar as though it may contain traces or peanuts and tree nuts. I hope Clif Bar will provide me with additional information shortly, and I promise to inform you if they do. I would love to have a safe energy bar for Jacob to eat, but the information that has been provided leaves me concerned and confused.
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