Swiss dairy group Emmi is reprinting a whole mess of labels for its Onken brand Strawberry, Peach, and Summer Berries Wholegrain Yogurts. Why? The yogurt is currently labeled as being gluten-free – despite the presence of whole grains, a fact that easily negates the label’s claims. The conflict between the label and the yogurts’ contents could cause serious confusion, with potentially dangerous results for those living with Celiac Disease. While the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has issued an alert regarding the yogurt, no action has been made to recall the products.
“We have spoken with the FSA about the issue,” Emmi spokesperson Katie Thorne told FoodNavigator magazine. “They have advised that a product withdrawal is not necessary as there is an allergen warning on the pack that states ‘contains gluten.’ However, we will be over-stickering our packaging to cover up the incorrect icon until pots with new packaging will arrive in the supermarkets.”
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To the public, Emmi also released the following statement: “We are aware of an issue on our Strawberry, Peach, and Summer Berries Wholegrain Yogurts packaging. These products contain whole grains such as barley, rye, oats, and wheat and are therefore not gluten free. This is clear from the ingredients list and allergen warning, however there is a gluten free icon on the packaging, which is incorrect. We are printing new packaging and this will be in the supermarkets shortly.”
Does this solution go far enough? That’s a tough call. On the one hand, the Onken wholegrain yogurt labels do offer other clues beyond the gluten-free icon (the ingredient list, the allergen warning) that should tip consumers off, and the brand has stepped up to rectify the situation in a cost-effective way. On the other hand, those with Celiac Disease are a population growing at a rapid pace – recent studies suggest that instances of the disorder have doubled every 15 years since the 1970s. Gluten intolerance is not something to be taken lightly, and the nutritional requirements of this population are not something that can be marginalized. While this particular case may present a gray area, clear labeling is an area brands should take special care with no matter what the issue.