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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

On nuts and allergies..

"May contain traces of nuts", "processed in a facility that processes wheat"...chances are, you've seen this warning on at least one or two packages of processed food. If you look on the back of my boxes, you'll see a similar warning. But a recent report on Marketplace made me consider the implications of my labeling.

I actually don't constantly work with nuts. There are a handful of recipes that contain them, and I don't make them every week. But I've never had a potentially hazardous food allergy. We've all heard some six o'clock news story about a child whose life hangs in the balance because of a chance encounter with the remnant of a peanut. So how much nut is too much nut? (or dairy, or wheat, or soy?)

The purpose of the story was to illustrate the wide variations in these allergy warnings, and to report that the FDA is considering regulating such warnings in order to provide consumer confidence and greater uniformity in the wording. Personally, I'd welcome such regulation, because it's all such a gray zone to me. If I chop some walnuts for a ganache, is the cutting board free of walnut traces after a good wash? Two washes? What if I wash my hands and dry them on a towel. Is there nut oil on the towel?

You can see where this is going. The last thing I want is to make someone sick by unintentionally feeding them nuts or dairy or soy or wheat. Having one's throat swell up is not the way to best savor a sea salt caramel or a bourbon truffle. So, until the FDA gives me a better cheat sheet - you should know that when I warn you that my chocolates have been produced in a facility that also handles nuts, soy, wheat and dairy, that's exactly what I mean. And if you ever have any questions about a specific product, don't hesitate to call. As always, if you have special needs or allergies, make sure you call or email, and I'll do my best to accomodate you.

There's a code on every box sold in retail that tells me exactly when I made the product and when it should be consumed for best flavor. It's eight digits - the first four are the date it was made, the last four are the date it expires. I should qualify that by saying, it doesn't really "expire", it just won't taste as good. Of course, if it's several months past, you probably don't want to eat it anyway!

With that, I'll tell you that I'll be posting new flavors next week, and changing the website offerings. Stay tuned.

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