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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