It’s Not What You Label, It’s How You Label

I’ve gotten really good at reading the ingredients and allergen information on various packages. Not that it’s a real skill, but you know, you read, you double-check that you read correctly, you triple check, and then you’re good to go.  Even if you’ve bought the product before, you read it each time to be sure they didn’t change the factory or anything.

On the right: ingredients, and a whole lot of non-life threatening related warnings. On the left: life threatening warnings. Fuck you, Sunridge Farms.

So imagine my surprise when I’m eating raisins, and I decide to read the package because the raisins taste less sticky than the other company’s raisins that I tend to buy.

And I notice under the ingredients — organic thompson raisins — that it has a whole list of things the raisins don’t have, like sulfur. And that they may containy a stem or seed trace. This is all in bold.

And then I keep reading, trying to solve the stickiness conondrum and I see on the bottom left side of the package — whereas the ingredients were on the bottom right, and slightly higher — the phrase “(May contain wheat, soy, treenuts, peanuts, milk) written not in bold, in a smaller font, underneath the company’s address.


I spit the raisins out, wash my mouth out with steaming hot water (whatever, it’s not like a doctor-mandated thing but it’s soothing), and drank half a bottle of water to flush whatever treenuts, peanuts, or wheat that may have been contained straight out of my system. I’m pretty sure I’m fine. I’m having a minor reaction but 95% of me thinks it’s anger and psychosomatic. Took Benedryl anyway, because 95% of me always thinks it’s anger and psychosomatic, and the doctor keeps trying to tell me that’s bullshit. Whatever.

But why was the labeling done so poorly? If you’re used to reading for allergen information, and you see a whole host of other, bolded info, you’d assume “Hey, that’s where the allergen info ought to be, don’t see it, okay, moving on.” Why is the fact that it may contain a stem more important than it may contain a treenut. A raisin stem is not a choking hazard for anyone who is old enough to eat a raisin. A treenut is a life threatening poison to more than 1% of children in North America. The heimlich cures choking. An epipen is lot more arduous.

All I’m asking for is some logic, good layout, thoughtful packaging, and maybe a little bit of bold. How hard is that, Sunridge Farms?

Apparently very hard. You’d think Sunridge Farms would’ve gotten the memo about clear allergy labeling when their products were recalled by the FDA in September 2011 for not listing that their chocolate cranberries contained peanuts. Or in 2008, when Canada recalled their raisins and chocolate for not declaring the presence of milk.

For shame.

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