Local family warns of the dangers of mislabeled food for those suffering from food allergies

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A suburban family is demanding answers from a major retailer after a gelato container is mislabeled.  In April, Socrates Vela purchased the Target exclusive Archer Farms Chocolate Hazelnut Swirl gelato for his family.  His 10-year-old daughter has always been allergic to peanuts but not hazelnuts.  Not long after ingesting the gelato, she started to get sick.  Vela says, “she was breaking into hives, where the skin starts raising all over.  And she was having a hard time breathing.”  The reaction was so severe that his daughter had to be hospitalized.

Vela started calling Target right away but it took them 6 days to voluntarily remove the gelato off store shelves.  The gelato supplier, Sinco, blames the labeling mistake on cross-contamination at the manufacturing plant in Italy. The recall points to traces of peanut protein.

The Food and Drug Administration says mistakes like this happen often. In fact, the number one reason items are recalled is because of mislabeling. The FDA sometimes lists two or three food recalls a day.

Right now, there aren’t specific rules to monitor the labels coming in from overseas.  The FDA and consumers trust overseas manufacturers to list accurately what is in the product as required by U.S. law. The agency does conduct spot check on the food products it regulates, but complains it has inadequate resources.

In 2011, a new law gave the FDA more authority to track overseas products, requiring more paperwork but even that hasn’t been implemented yet.

Target says it is no longer working with that specific gelato manufacturer and made that decision even before this recall.  It also sent out a statement saying it is “committed to providing safe and high quality products to our guests.”  Target, the supplier Sinco and the FDA turned down requests for an on-camera interview.  The Vela family has not settled on a monetary amount with Target or the supplier.

 More information at Lurie Children's Hospital's Allergy & Immunology Page

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  • Joel Z Williams

    Excellent report! I live near Springfield, Missouri and I get jealous when I see thorough, competent reporting complete with sharp graphics and tight editing like this. Even the anchors had some relevant input and not just the usual inane banter which we get here. Our “news” is about 30 percent weather and other time-stuffing nonsense. Chicago you don’t know just how good you have it.

  • Angi

    Target’s products are terrible! My daughter was sent to the hospital from a different one of their products due to an insufficient allergy label.

  • whitneygibbs

    This is sad. May this girl recover soon. As a mother of a daughter who suffers with food allergies. I just want to put this out here. My daughter is 4. I have been aware of her allergies since age 2. She is allergic to peanuts, eggs, pecans, and bananas. Dr. Always warned to STAY AWAY FROM ALL TREE NUTS AS WELL. She had ALWAYS eaten bananas since she was a baby. She got re- tested via skin testing in February 2014 for everything that showed at age 2 plus all the fruits everything remained the same. She had an ear infection August 2014 she got antibiotics…. drank some simply orange banana orange juice had an anaphylatic reaction. We got re-tested a 2 weeks after that she was highly allergic to bananas.

  • whitneygibbs

    Also her doctor warned to avoid the nut oils & watch her reactions. Turns out sunflower oils bother her as well. ( coconut oil, palm milk, sunflower oil, palm oil, etc)

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