Promotional activities

The control of allergens in manufactured products extends beyond production and labelling to all promotional practices linked with that product. Those that need particular attention are those that relate to sampling of the product. Product sampling can follow a variety of routes, but the most common include:

• Wet sampling - the product is served from a central location in a ready to eat or drink format, for immediate consumption.

• Dry sampling - a product that needs preparation is distributed from a central location in a format that needs further preparation.

• Door drop - free samples of products are distributed via the postal system for trial at home.

It is essential that those who are sampling products are fully briefed as to the allergenic potential of that product. Wet sampling of products, or the sampling of products intended to be consumed immediately, needs to be undertaken with great care, as consumers receive the product without any packaging. Information must be available to advise consumers of the ingredients in the product, and notices outlining any key allergens assist sufferers of allergies in selecting whether to sample that product. These procedures apply to dry sampling also, but in these cases the product is often distributed in its outer packaging with a detailed ingredients list. Sampling to children can pose additional difficulties and should only be undertaken with parental consent for the child to take the product. This is particularly relevant with nut and peanut allergies, as the reactions can be severe to extremely small quantities of the allergen.

Door drop sampling does provide an efficient way of inviting a large number of people to try a product. It, too, has difficulties. In households where someone suffers anaphylactic shock to a particular ingredient, the entire household very often follows the same principles and becomes an egg-free, milk-free or nut-free zone, for example. In such households, great care is taken to select foods that are free from the particular allergen to minimise any risk of anaphylaxis occurring. This is particularly true in households with young children who are unable to read labels and unable to be responsible for the foods they choose. It is also the case in many households where there is a sufferer of peanut or nut allergy, as these foods can be more easily taken out of the diet of the whole family than foods such as milk, eggs or wheat. Delivering free samples of foods containing the allergen through the letterbox removes the choice to select suitable foods from the family. A young child could see the food product on the doorstep and consume some without parental knowledge. Consequently, it is recommended that door drop sampling is undertaken with great care and is avoided entirely for products that contain nuts and peanuts. There are alternative options, including distributing a coupon for the product enabling sufferers of allergies to choose whether to sample that product, or a reply-paid card which is returned if the household would like to request a sample of a particular product to be delivered. The latter two mechanisms put the choice directly in the hands of the householders and remove any risk of inadvertent consumption of a product by young children.

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