A few hours after I first posted this, all of the major supermarkets withdrew contaminated batches of gluten free bread products. It turns out that Genius owns the factory where all of these products are made and many of the supermarket's own label gluten free products are made by Genius in this factory. Genius and Coeliac UK have released a statement apologising to customers about the ongoing inconvenience and assuring their customers that safety is paramount. However, they haven't said what the "dry ingredient" which casued the contamination was nor how this mistake happened.
In the process of writing this blog , I deleted several paragraphs which I deemed to be a little too personal. In light of what's happened I've reconsidered and have decided to share this with you:
My daughter loves Genius's Pain Au Chocolate. She normally has one for breakfast and it always makes me smile when I see her eating it She loves them.
I was dreading the moment when she would say, "Can we get some pain au chocolates for my breakfast? ". because I knew that as soon as I told her about the product recall, she would not touch any store bought products again. Trust is a big thing for her. The few incidents of gluten poisoning we've had, have been from food labelled gluten free which has been contaminated in some way.
I decided to man up and I told her what had happened. I asked her if she still wanted me to buy these items, as they were not involved in the recall of products. Her answer was clear.....never eating anything made by Genius again. The words brand and trust go hand in hand. When you are a coeliac, this is fundamental.
For the second time in less then 6 months, there has been a recall of Genius products. Friday evening I saw an announcement on twitter that a batch of Genius Crumpets and Livwell Naan have been recalled because they may contain traces of gluten. The amount of gluten is considered by the company to be very low and considered low risk for those who are gluten intolerant. How low is anyone’s guess, but this implies, not a significant threat if you are gluten intolerant. What about Coeliacs? Is it below the 20ppm? I’m guessing not, or else, they wouldn’t need to recall the products.
It turns out that Asda have also recalled a number of gluten free bakery products including pizza bases, naan breads and pitta breads. Their spokesperson said:
“We are very sorry for the inconvenience caused and will ensure this doesn’t happen again”
I don’t think ‘inconvenience’ is the right word here. Inconvenience implies, it is a bit bothersome. For Coeliac’s having a bit of gluten, damages their gut lining. The symptoms of gluten poisoning are more than a little inconvenient. They can include severe and prolonged vomiting, diarrhoea, horrific stomach cramps and extreme fatigue to name a few. Equally troublesome and inconvenient are the psychological issues associated with gluten poisoning. When someone says it’s gluten free and then it turns out its not….that can cause a lot of psychological damage. Trust goes out the window.
I’m not sure if the Asda and Genius recalls are in any way connected but it’s strange they were both announced at the weekend. Are these Asda products made in the same facility as the Genius Naans and crumpets? And in the last few minutes I’ve seen that Sainsbury’s have also recalled several of their gluten free bakery products. I bought a gluten free pizza from Tescos which was consumed at lunchtime today. Should I be worried?
This latest recall makes me question what facilities are being used to make Genius products. In fact, it makes me think that lots of the gluten free bakery products are all coming from one source. With Genius’s expanding range, it’s worrying to think that products are being made in factories which may be combining both gluten free and non gluten free manufacturing. Genius has been silent on this issue and despite repeated requests, has not really confirmed or denied that they use shared facilities.
Some further questions:
And finally….if you are a gluten free brand, what the hell are you doing sharing a facility that makes products with gluten?
Genius isn’t saying anything about the Asda situation, nor the Sainsbury’s recall, but then they aren’t saying anything about their own recall situation either so who knows.
The big question is: If you have Coeliac Disease, is it safe or wise to purchase Genius products if they are being made on product lines which handle gluten? And if these products are made in shared facilties, should there not be a “may contain gluten” disclaimer on the packs?
My message to Genius is:
I feel let down as a customer. You haven’t seen fit to tell me the truth about how products with the Genius brand are manufactured nor have you given me enough information to make an informed choice about how safe your products are for Coeliacs. As part of the Coeliac community, who have been instrumental in supporting your growth, I feel your focus is elsewhere. Please stop hiding behind your PR machine and behaving like a faceless corporation who puts money before safety. Your customers deserve better treatment.