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PostPosted: Thu Aug 26, 2010 4:28 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 6:53 pm
Posts: 1454
Location: Canada
the situation:

local health food store ordered a product especially for me.

When I went to pick it up, they were short on room in the fridge, so they put the jars on their side at the bottom where there were some loose walnuts that had spilled.

What would you do?
a) buy the product and wash the jar thoroughly when you get home
b) explain why you're not comfortable with buying it

I opted for b), but I'm wondering whether my 'comfort zone' is tighter than most folks. Also, I do feel badly that they made a special order for me. I have no doubt that they will be able to sell it. It is nearly identical to another product that sells very well (they tend to run out between shipments even). Maybe I should offer to pay for it if they can't sell if by its due date.

The ensuing conversation could have gone better. The cashier pointed out that they handle nuts a lot. I asked if they wash their hands afterwards. the answer: no. they don't always have time. :frightened (nut allergies aside, it doesn't sound very sanitary. hopefully they wash their hands after handling money + before handling the nuts.)

She asked me if I'd ever had a reaction from their products (no) and pointed out that they aren't doing anything differently than what they've been doing all along. She also pointed out that people come into the store eating nuts... [<sigh> as if that somehow exempts them from washing their hands] I'm going to talk to the manager/owner tomorrow.

Would you be comfortable with shopping there for items in *closed* *sealed* containers if they don't change their anti-handwashing policy?

If not, do you think that nut allergic folks should just avoid places like this because after all health food stores are filled with nuts? Or do you think that businesses should accommodate allergies by at least having a handwashing policy??


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 26, 2010 5:47 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 11:17 pm
Posts: 6492
Location: Ottawa
My personal comfort level is that if the jar is sealed, it's safe on the inside. I will purchase artificial vanilla, candy apple sticks and chocolate molds from the Bulk Barn but I am not comfortable with dd going into the store as I am concerned about airborne allergens (dust particles).

I would purchase the items and wash them when home. I would make a comment about the loose walnuts being off putting as well, just in case you wish to order something that is not so well packaged next time.

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Daughter: asthma, allergies to egg, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, most legumes (not soy) & penicillin. Developing hayfever type allergies.
Husband: no allergies
Me: allergies to some tree that flowers in May
Cat: allergic to beef, pork and lamb


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 26, 2010 10:16 pm 
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Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2005 9:38 pm
Posts: 933
Location: Oakville, Ontario
I often wonder about how clean the outside of purchased products are... as a former employee in a grocery store (when I was a teenager and in school), I know that many hands handle grocery store products. Glass jars, bags of chips, packages of cookies, produce... the list goes on and on and we just don't know who might have handled it, whether their hands are freshly cleaned - I'm quite sure they handle many items in the store, and then move on to handle something else, potentially introducing an allergen onto the packaging. If I've handled the outside of a package, and then move on to work with the ingredients inside the package, I will wash my hands. For example, if I'm serving crackers, I will handle the package, but then will wash my hands prior to handling the contents. I've wondered if I'm being overly cautious (paranoid??). In the early days, this kind of thinking absolutely never occurred to me, and I never took these precautions, but, over the years, I've become more cautious as we've had so many incidents with our son.

So, in response to your question, I probably would have purchased the product anyway, but I would make sure that the jar did not inadvertently "contaminate" something else. I'm sure I would have been horrified to see my specially ordered item sitting on a pile of nuts! That definitely would have given me reason to pause and ponder, but I really think many of the items in the grocery store come in contact with potential allergens and we, as consumers, are simply unaware of all the hands that come in contact with the item prior to us bringing it home and putting it in our cupboard/fridge. Definitely gives us all something to think about. Isn't life complicated???

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15 yr old daughter: no health issues
12 yr old son: allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish, sesame, sunflower, mustard, poppy seeds, peas, carrots, some fruits, instructed to avoid all other legumes (except soy & green beans), pollen, cats, horses


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 27, 2010 10:16 am 
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 6:53 pm
Posts: 1454
Location: Canada
Thanks, Susan and Julie. It's true...there are ample opportunities for nut contamination in the store. I'm aware, too, of for example needing to wash the counter after putting a package on it.

I did pick up some jars on the shelf (as opposed to sitting on walnuts.) But I didn't want to touch something that was in contact with nuts. It just seems gross to me. But I guess they could have put it in a bag for me. I could have cleaned the jar later.

I was aware of the peanut-butter making machine and the nuts everywhere in the health food store. But I didn't realize that they handle nuts with their bare hands there. I assumed that they would use scoops or something. It does trouble me that they don't wash their hands after packaging nuts and before ringing in purchases . . . .


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 27, 2010 11:15 am 
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Joined: Wed Aug 15, 2007 1:40 am
Posts: 429
Location: Alberta, Canada
Since Sobeys and walmart stopped stocking the soynut butter I like the only place I am able to get it is by pre-order at a place called Nutters! :frightened
I get my mother to pick it up as I know they have more nuts than I can handle, bulk. I have always felt in a sealed jar it would be just fine never gave it a second thought. But I also never thought it would be sitting on any walnuts... I still feel with washing the jar it would be fine but I would not want them to think I was OK with that. I think someone with out allergies get's so many mixed messages as we often have to make things ok for ourselves I think it can send the message that it is not that serious. Like I do eat in a restaurant that makes shellfish or has almonds in their salad, with discussion with the staff I would eat there but too many items on the menu that I can't have I would leave. What does this thought process do to someone without allergies. Eg: DQ I eat at Tim Hortons I can't even take the smell.
Also I always assume hands are not washed. I have even explained to my children gloves on the hand does not mean anything, anything you do with out a glove you can do with a glove. :frightened

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Me-Allergic to Peanut, Tree Nut, Coconut, Shellfish, ASA and Asthma
My Husband and Children No Allergies


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 10:25 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 6:53 pm
Posts: 1454
Location: Canada
paige, you're right about the importance of avoiding sending mixed messages.

what i ended up doing: I went back to the store today armed with disposable latex-free gloves and wet ones. They hadn't sold the product I had ordered, so I wiped them down.

I'm still not comfortable with the fact that they handle nuts with their bare hands and don't wash them before stocking the shelves, dealing with customers, etc. BUT they are close to home. And I do like the store. sigh. I'll continue to shop there, I guess.


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