Less than a month after Kellogg announced it would add peanut flour to several Keebler and Austin branded sandwich crackers beginning in April, it made a 180 on the Austin Grilled Cheese Sandwich Crackers – but not the other snacks to which it added peanut flour – saying they would be peanut-free again beginning in September.
The company added that it will continue to work towards providing more options for allergic shoppers in the future.
The about-face came after Dave Bloom, CEO of SnackSafely.com, filed a petition on Change.org March 31 asking the food giant not to add peanut flour to its Keebler and Austin brand crackers, which have long been recognized by the food allergy community as safe to eat. The petition attracted 8,000 supporters in its first 24 hours and as of April 27 it had more than 23,000 signatures.
Far from seeing Kellogg’s change of heart for the one snack as a success, Bloom said in an update to his petition that the change is a “clumsy, patronizing attempt to placate” consumers who are “outraged” and disappointed by the addition of peanut flour to the snacks.
He went on to say that the reversal is akin to playing Russian roulette with children who are allergic to peanuts “by reintroducing a variety that may or may not contain peanut flour depending on when you visit the market.”
Consumer concerns mounting
This fear compounds concerns Bloom and other consumers raised about Kellogg’s initial switch, including that many shoppers would not look for or notice the peanut warning on the snack wrappers because they have been considered safe for so many years.
“Adding peanut flour to a family of products that has always been considered ‘safe’ is an extremely dangerous move,” one consumer posted on Kellogg’s discussion board. “My biggest concern is that [friends or relatives], unaware of the ingredient change, will offer the crackers to a peanut-allergic child. After all, why would any rational human being think that a cheese cracker might include peanut flour when it never has before.”
Her sentiment is echoed by others who posted on Kellogg’s Facebook page and who signed the Change.org petition.
The manufacturer responded to several posters on its website saying it was “truly sorry to disappoint” them and assuring them that “the health and safety of our consumers is taken very seriously and we know it’s not easy to find foods that those with peanut allergies can eat,” which is why it will re-offer its Austin Grilled Cheese Sandwich Crackers as a peanut-free alternative in the fall.
Some consumers were not as critical of the reversal as Bloom and recognized it as a start – but several still wondered why the company made the change given peanut allergies in the US are climbing – up more than 300% from 1997 to 2008.
Kellogg’s did not explain the reformulation when it announced the addition of peanut flour to the snacks, but Bloom and other consumers who reached out to Kellogg believe it could be an effort to enrich the product with more protein and reduce carbohydrates.
If this is the case, Bloom fears the company will add peanut flour to other products in its portfolio, and that other companies will follow suit. For this reason, he urges concerned consumers to continue to pressure the company to fully reverse its decision to add peanut products and return all the affected snacks back to the safe category.
Other snacks impacted by the reformulation, which Kellogg’s has not backed down from changing, include Austin branded Cheddar Cheese Cracker Sandwiches, Pepper Jack Cracker Sandwiches and the Variety Pack Cracker Sandwiches. Changes to the Keebler brand include Club & Cheddar Sandwich Crackers, Cheese & Cheddar Sandwich Crackers, Pepper Jack Sandwich Crackers and the Keebler Variety Pack Sandwich Crackers.