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PostPosted: Fri Jan 20, 2006 11:01 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 6:53 pm
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Location: Canada
Yesterday while shopping at WholeFoods I noticed that the meat behind the counter had been rearranged. I've always eyed the sausage section with suspicion (just because if there are a list of ingredients I have to read through I'm almost guaranteed to be allergic to something) but as far as I recall before the sausage was in a section separate from the chicken, turkey, and pork. This time I noticed that one of the sausages was directly above some of the chicken. While I waited for my order I peered through the glass trying to read the list of ingredients. At the bottom, they have major allergens in bold. I was unpleasantly surprised to see "contains peanuts" on one of the labels (look out for the sausage with blue cheese!) I raised the issue with the man behind the deli counter, and he was shocked as well. He seemed to totally understand allergies and told me that they used to sell some sort of sausage with peanuts before but discontinued it because of concerns about cross contamination with the other meats. He assured me that he would raise the issue with his supervisor and that the sausage would be gone. But in the meantime I don't think I'll be buying anymore meat from WholeFoods! And I'm beginning to wonder whether I really should be buying meat that doesn't come prepackaged. I guess my other option for hormone-free meat from humanely treated animals would be the Big Carrot. I love shopping at the Big Carrot, and I do go there from time to time, but it is out of my way.

Also, as I was unloading my groceries onto the conveyor belt, I noticed the cashier was cleaning up a spill. I put *all* of my produce in plastic bags to avoid cross contamination with whatever could be on those conveyor belts. Anyways, the bag of lemons (in a mesh bag) that I bought wouldn't scan through so the cashier took them out of the plastic bag. I ran back to exchange it for another one, but he accidentally charged me for two even though I only left the store with one. <sigh> (we need a sighing emoticon) I did call WholeFoods, though, and they are good with that sort of thing so I'll get refunded the next time I go there.

Another time this month when I was at Whole Foods I noticed part way through the transaction that the cashier was eating something. I asked if it contained nuts....'no' he said...'it's just popcorn.' But then I noticed that it was *caramel* corn...who knows. It might have contained nuts.

I just think that everyone who works with the public should have training in being allergy aware. I once switched lines when getting a ticket at the Canadian Opera Company because the cashier was eating nuts. And once in the Career Centre at U of T the career councillor was eating nuts! I think it is rude to eat while on the job anyways.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2006 4:49 pm 
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Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2005 11:39 pm
Posts: 1141
Location: saskatchewan, canada
Boy do I agree with you Lisa about how rude it is to eat while on the job! I was returning something with my daughters at a local department store around halloween. The customer service girl was eating reese peanut butter cups!

With my youngest being allergic to chicken, I don't give her any meat. Too risky, especially meat slices, sausages, hot dogs etc. One local grocery store only packages beef in the store...all other products are shipped in. I am willing to try her on beef from there, but she is unwilling to eat meat at all.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2006 6:30 pm 
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Joined: Thu Mar 03, 2005 9:38 pm
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Location: Toronto
Lisa wrote:
Another time this month when I was at Whole Foods I noticed part way through the transaction that the cashier was eating something. I asked if it contained nuts....'no' he said...'it's just popcorn.' But then I noticed that it was *caramel* corn...who knows. It might have contained nuts.


That is just gross and disgusting. I don't want anyone eating food and then touching MY food. Germs! Disease! They don't need an education only about allergies - they need an education of health in general.

He's eating caramel corn - he's going to lick his fingers. It's a natural thing - he WILL lick his fingers. Then he's touching your food.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2006 5:51 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 6:53 pm
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Location: Canada
AnnaMarie wrote:
They don't need an education only about allergies - they need an education of health in general.


I agree, and it crossed my mind that he wasn't really doing himself any favours by handling money and then popping food into his mouth!


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PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2006 10:54 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 6:53 pm
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Location: Canada
I went to Whole Foods this evening and saw a man over by the bulk bin nuts section putting nuts into a bag and then eating them. Obviously people aren't supposed to do that but they do. They could very well head off to the produce section and contaminate the apples or something.

Since it was a slow night (because of the downpour we're having I'm guessing) I thought I'd stop by the customer service desk and mention my concern. The best thing of course would be not to have open bin nuts, but I was only going to suggest that in an indirect way since open bin nuts are just a part of health food stores. (I think that nuts should be in packages, but I think it is wise to pick one's battles if you know what I mean.) So what I suggested was posting a sign alerting people to the increasing incidence of food allergies and asking them not to eat the nuts to avoid contaminating store surfaces. (I was a bit more long winded than that, though. Just to raise the issue I said ideally that there wouldn't be any open bin nuts but I realise that they sell really well and that probably isn't possible.) The woman working at the service desk paged the manager and she *loved* the sign idea. She said that she knows someone who puts plastic bags over her hands when she shops for groceries because she is concerned about coming into contact with allergens--so she understands the concern. She is going to give some thought about how to word the sign and hopes that it will also cut down on the amount of nuts that are stolen.

Since I was on a roll, I also mentioned that I have a similar concern about store samples. This is a tricky issue of course, because I don't think that stores are going to get rid of samples. There might be a case to be made to not give out finger food, however. Darn. should have mentioned that. I raised the issue of people leaving the wrappers from store samples in carts and shopping baskets. The manager thought the sign idea would work well in that scenario as well----she thought that a sign could encourage people to dispose of their toothpicks and food wrappers *at* the sample food counter. That would also cut down on litter.

I wanted to bring up the issue of the peanut-butter making machines. Regardless of peoples' stance on whether it is possible to react to the smell of peanut butter, I'm betting that everyone would agree that machines that allow people to grind their own peanut butter puts peanut protein into the air. (Fortunately, the machine doesn't seem to be in use all that much, however.) But I didn't want to make too many suggestions at once. (Plus I haven't had a reaction in the store.) Even though in some ways, Whole Foods isn't the best place to shop if one has a severe nut allergy, I was very pleased that the staff at Whole Foods is concerned about allergies and is willing to take measures to reduce the risk of cross contamination. Those signs will also raise awareness about allergies.

An update on the possibility of cross contamination at the meat counter issue: Earlier, I was concerned when I saw a peanut-containing sausage there. I pointed it out and they got rid of the sausage because of the high incidence of peanut allergy. Later I noticed pecans in the prepared meat section---it is separate from the plain meat, but one of the scales is used for both sections. So there is a remote chance of cross contamination. I spoke to a supervisor at the meat counter about this---he said they would get rid of the pecans as well. (this isn't a cut and dried issue, however. if it were just pecans that were the concern i'd say they should definitely get rid of the pecans. but there are sesame seeds in some of the meats...and soy...etc.) But they never did get rid of the pecans---I am buying my meat at the Big Carrot now.


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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2006 9:46 am 
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Joined: Sun Mar 05, 2006 1:05 pm
Posts: 528
Location: Burlington, Ontario
I really don't understand what pecans are doing in the prepared meat section!!?!

That is so odd. Not only odd, but this raises a huge cross-contamination question. I mean, who knows what meats came in contact with them. Same goes for the meats packaged in store. Who knows if the chicken I just bought came in contact with them?

I would definitely raise up a huge stink. When you think of the extent that some companies like Quaker go to to keep their products free of allergenic contaminants only to have their efforts "undermined" by the carelessness and ignorance of the store's meat section!

That's my rant for the day. :x


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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2006 12:12 pm 
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Helen wrote:
The best thing of course would be not to have open bin nuts, but I was only going to suggest that in an indirect way since open bin nuts are just a part of health food stores. (I think that nuts should be in packages, but I think it is wise to pick one's battles if you know what I mean.)....I wanted to bring up the issue of the peanut-butter making machines. Regardless of peoples' stance on whether it is possible to react to the smell of peanut butter, I'm betting that everyone would agree that machines that allow people to grind their own peanut butter puts peanut protein into the air.

Helen -- I'm glad to say that my health food store does not have any open bins of nuts. They have all of their bulk nuts already packaged in small baggies and put in their refrigerator section. So I don't think it's unreasonable to request this at your store. It's definitely a benefit to them as you said - it cuts out on the snacking before cashing out. I can totally relate to your concerns about the peanut butter making machine -- ours is right at the entrance to the store and (in addition to the potential airborne peanut protein) just the idea of some spilling on the outside edge of the container and then contaminating the converyor belt (or people's hands) irks me. :roll: One good thing though -- our health food store only allows its employees to operate it unlike other stores I've seen. At least we have someone who is knowlegeable operating it and less likely to make a mess. I rarely bring my son into the store because of the PB machine.

It's also nice to hear that your store was receptive to your concerns and willing to make changes -- it's very encouraging!


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PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2006 10:52 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 6:53 pm
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Location: Canada
Nicole, the pecans are actually on the meat--chicken I think it was. Whole Foods has one display case of plain meat (although there might be sausage in there...can't remember) and one display case next to it with raw meat with added ingredients. They have ingredients listings and at the bottom have "CONTAINS [insert one of the top 8 allergens here" written in large, legible letters. Some of the meat has sesame sauce; some has milk; some soy--so they couldn't completely solve the problem without majorly changing what they sell. I'm sure they are careful of cross contamination---especially because it is all raw meat. But one of the scales is used to weigh and wrap the meat from the "plain" section as well as meat from the "gourmet" section. The place is generally spotless but I have seen little bits of meat fall off the wrapper.... cross contamination is a possibility to my mind. Although I suppose the scale at the far end (far away from the gourmet section) would be less likely to have traces of allergens. Whole Foods does have some meat which comes prepackaged---but it is organic and even more expensive than the already expensive "naturally raised" meat.

Ethansmom, I think it might be complicated for that Whole Foods store to move away from open bin nuts because they are a large chain rather than an independently owned store. I bet any change like that would have to be made centrally...although I suppose it wouldn't hurt to try. Open bins are probably popular at these stores because it cuts down on packaging (this is the reason behind the meat counter too). There is this *huge* whole aisle just of nuts (there may be some grains or whatever though.....I stay away from that section so I haven't inspected).


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PostPosted: Tue May 23, 2006 9:03 am 
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Joined: Sun Mar 05, 2006 1:05 pm
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Location: Burlington, Ontario
Helen, thanks for the explanation. I didn't have the right visual. I thought that pecans were strewn about on the meat, as a decoration, like parsley :lol:

Still, I never thought of fresh meat with nuts on them, so I'll be extra careful and check the meat counters from now on to make sure there's nothing of the kind where I shop.

I learned something new today, thanks!


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