Friday, 14 March 2014

Dairy free, gluten free pastries - Pure Genius?

If you are 'just' dairy free and not gluten free as well, you may not be interested in this post. After all, you can have Jus Roll* puff pastry, croissant etc. as they are dairy free. Wow! I've been so jealous of you! 

If you are 'just' gluten free, I've been so envious of you - ever since Genius first produced their gluten free croissants. Sigh!

When I first heard about Genius NEW and IMPROVED croissants, my heart leapt!! To find that there were other pastry products that were also dairy and gluten free, I was ecstatic!!

When I found them in Tesco, my shopping basket was soon filled to the brim!

The Croissants

Okay, they were somewhat smaller than The Hub's from Waitrose and more expensive, BUT they were croissants that I could eat and they crumbed just the same as the real deal. Although I don't think you can't exactly replace the buttery taste of a normal croissant, I did enjoy eating them smeared with strawberry jam.

The Croissant

The Chocolate Chip Brioche

Sainsbury's have had something similar for a while already, but they are rather small and a bit chewy. Genius's, tasted a lot more like the real deal. Although The Hub wasn't that sold on them, I was pretty happy - especially once they'd been warmed up.

So all that was missing from my taste experience was the...

Pain au Chocolat

As soon as it arrived in Tesco, I took it home. These were much more comparable in size to The Hub's 'normal' ones. Glad I didn't emblazon it all over Twitter though! Although I LOVED the taste, texture etc. etc. and so did 'Baby.'

'Huzzah!' thought I, 'Spot on! This really is genius!' I was getting all ready to eulogise over the product.'

The Pain au Chocolat

Until tonight...

'Eagle Eyes' Nia (as I shall call her from now on - @ChubbaNia on Twitter) asked Genius some questions about their new products and discovered that the Pain au Chocolat were not technically dairy free.

The thing is, there is one difference between the packaging of the Pain au Chocolat and the Croissant. The Croissant specifically states that it is 'dairy free'. This is missing from the Pain au Chocolat. Now, although I noted this when I bought the product, there was nothing else on the label to indicate why this should be. Nothing in the ingredients list, no milk listed as an allergen, no 'may contain milk'. SO, although I was puzzled by the lack of 'dairy free' I couldn't see any reason why.

The Packaging

I couldn't see anything listed on the website either:

Screenshot taken by Eagle Eyes' Nia  herself.

Now I don't know about you, but if there is nothing in the ingredient's list, or the allergen box, or listed as a 'may contain,' I tend to assume that a product IS safe.

It was The Hub who pointed out that the Pain au Chocolat did not include a sub-list of chocolate ingredients, whereas the Chocolate Chip Brioche* did! 

AH-HA! Bingo!

Now, for those of you who are okay with 'may contain milk,' there is probably no need to worry. Genius say that the reason they cannot label the Pain au Chocolat 'dairy free' (as they have done with the croissants) is because although the chocolate that has been used has not been made with dairy, it is made in a facility that cannot guarantee that it is 100% dairy free.


So now I'm wondering whether the same chocolate was also used in the brioche. And also whether the chocolate contains soya - another major allergen that is also not listed but is usually an ingredient used in the production of chocolate. I've asked, but am still waiting for a reply - I'm guessing that's because it's the weekend and some research will be necessary. However, having brought people's attention to these products via Face Book and Twitter, I wouldn't want anyone (who needed to know) to be left in the dark.

For us it's not life threatening - 'Baby' is non-Ige. It's a delayed reaction. That means reactions to very slight traces of milk may result in painful tummy aches and more frequent pooey episodes. These are loose and will burn her skin if it remains in contact with the poo. That's what we had yesterday and a bit more today. 

As I have mentioned in previous posts, 'Baby' is sensitive to traces. If a product says 'may contain' we avoid it. It generally does, it would seem.

Now, I can't be 100% certain that 'Baby's' tummy aches and poo was caused by Genius Pain au Chocolat, so that's not what I'm saying. However, I must admit I was puzzled and racking my brains, 'cos I couldn't think what could be causing her body to respond in this way. As far as I knew, I had given her nothing 'wrong'.

If 'Eagle Eyes' Nia hadn't warned me, I'd still be in the dark - none the wiser of the potential risk. 

I must admit to being concerned that I'm supposed to work out that something isn't specifically dairy free, just because the wording 'dairy free' is not on the packet.

I really don't think Genius meant to be misleading about the dairy.

The Food Standards Agency state:

Manufacturers often use phrases such as 'may contain' to show that there could be small amounts of an allergen for example milk, egg, nuts etc. in a food product because it has entered the product accidentally during the production process.
It's not a legal requirement to say on the label that a food might accidently contain small amounts of an allergen, but many manufacturers label their products in this way to warn their customers of this risk.
There is concern that 'may contain' labelling is used too much, sometimes when it isn't really necessary. This could undermine valid warnings on products and restrict people's choice unnecessarily.
We recognise that advisory labelling is essential for people with food allergies, and that manufacturers are striving to provide helpful information. As a result, we have been working to reduce the unnecessary use of 'may contain' labelling and to provide clear advice to the public on why these labelling terms are used and what they mean.
So Genius are not required by law to mention 'may contain milk' and neither will they be in December, when labelling is meant to be standardised. And this is the problem with the current labelling situation in the UK. Unless packaging specifically states otherwise we can't be sure and should check with the manufacturers, if at all concerned.

However, I am concerned about the lack of sub-labelling of the chocolate in the Pain au Chocolat. If soya lecithin has been used as an ingredient in the production of this chocolate, I would have thought that it should be reflected in the allergy advice on the packet. And I would expect a major free from company like Genius to get this right. 

I'm concerned because although I'm intolerant to soya, I'm okay with the lecithin, but I know that others are NOT...

I still have a spare packet of Genius Pain au Chocolat in the cupboard, waiting to be eaten. So now I'm in a quandary. Not sure whether to eat them or not. I'll leave it to you to decide what you must do.

I'm still eating the croissant though!

Genius have now confirmed the presence of soya lecithin within the Pain au Chocolat. It is now listed on their website (see hereand they are going to update their packaging also. They have also added a statement to say that they cannot guarantee that the Pain au Chocolat are milk free. 

On one hand, this is good news, as we now have some clarity BUT they have yet to confirm whether the chocolate chips in the *brioche are made with the same chocolate. I'm assuming that a manufacturer might use the same source of chocolate for both items. I want to establish clearly, that they're not the same 'may contain' chocolate drops as those used in the Pain au Chocolat. Because if so, the the brioche should not be labelled 'dairy free' as they are currently.

I first asked on Friday night. Since then, I have been asking and asking for answers and getting nowhere! This shocks me as they are a free from company with a HUGE profile and I was under the impression that their founder (Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne) founded this company on the back of her son's allergies, so you'd think they'd really try to get things right!

I'm beginning to wonder whether they are dragging their feet on purpose, in the hope I'll go away! It might seem, to someone who really doesn't know what the heck is going on, that they have something to hide!!

Also, by now, I would have expected to find product recall notices going out - I've seen these for other products containing undeclared allergens, however, in this case it hasn't happened at all. Maybe Genius are worried about the cost involved in recalling products, I'd understand that, except for the fact that this is potentially people's lives they're messing with! This strikes me as being VERY irresponsible!

New Update (21/03/14): 
It is reassuring to note that Genius have now contacted me with this message. They have also informed me that the chocolate in the Brioche is different from the chocolate in the Pain au Chocolat, therefore we can all be assured that the Brioche is dairy free, as stated on the packet. (PHEW!) Now, where's that Chocolate Brioche??

* Just so you know, not all Jus Roll products are dairy free so check all packets. And, what's more, they are not labelled as 'dairy free'. You have been warned!  :)

Further Reading:

'May Contain' Labelling - The Consumer's Perspective


  1. I do find it odd when manufacturers don't break down ingredients on the packaging in this way. Picked a product up the other day that contained 'gluten free breadcrumbs' as an ingredient - um, yes, and what would those be made of exactly?!

    I feel like I'm always being down on Genius, but this is one of many examples where they have been less than transparent about their operations. I don't know if it's an actual strategy or whether they just have too many agencies managing all of their comms and PR who aren't close enough to the product and free from community?

    1. It might sound odd, but in some ways I'm glad a new problem #piegate has arisen, simply because it shows my original instinct was right - they are not transparent - something to bear in mind when considering buying their products in the future! I am now worrying about whether I should eat their products at all, if some of their products are made in the same place as gluten-containing products! I am watching and waiting to see what happens next!