November 23, 2008

Wellshire Farms is trying to kill me.

No, this is not a paranoid rant; some of the largest merchants of ready-to-eat foods are selling food that is deadly to millions of Americans.

The Sun-Sentinel is carrying a Chicago Tribune story that reports some major American food vendors are selling products that are supposed to be free of allergens, but aren't. The consequences of that can be - and have been - fatal.

One of the companies out to kill people recklessly lax in their labeling is Wellshire Farms. There are actually lot more in the Tribune story, but I've actually bought Wellshire Farms products, and failed to connect my resultant reaction eating their product because, after all, it was clearly labeled "gluten-free."
Pridemore recalled how she bought Wellshire Kids' dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, made by New Jersey-based Wellshire Farms, because the item specifically claimed to be gluten free. She also found the same claim on the Wellshire Farms Web site.

After her son had the severe reaction to the nuggets, she took some to his allergist, who ran tests, including gently rubbing a nugget on the boy's arm to see if it would cause a small welt. It did, and the allergist concluded the nuggets were to blame for his full-blown reaction.

...she sent the remainder of the nuggets in her freezer to the Nebraska lab.

The results showed high amounts of gluten.
Like any of us, she contacted the USDA. But it turns out that they're out to kill indifferent to the plight of those of us with allergies, too,.
she e-mailed a copy of the findings to the USDA and reminded Maxwell that the product advertises itself as gluten free.

The investigator wrote back that the government had "archived your complaint." The investigation went no further, according to Pridemore. She also e-mailed the test results to Wellshire Farms. The company, she said, never responded.
You might be wondering why Pridemore had the product tested herself: well, she was told to:
In an e-mail in January, (agency investigator Michael) Maxwell indicated to Pridemore that in light of that inspection report and the fact that no other consumer had complained, no action would be taken. "You may want to have the product tested," he wrote, according to a copy of the e-mail exchange.
And did the USDA then contact the company to have them explain the test results?
USDA spokeswoman Amanda Eamich said one reason it did not ask Wellshire Farms to recall the chicken bites is because the agency did not trust the consumers' testing results.
So, the USDA instructs the victims to seek their own test results, and then ignores them out of hand. That sounds like complicit negligence, to me.

To be fair, it's possible that Pridemore's sample was contaminated after it was open in her kitchen. I know that it couldn't happen in MY kitchen, because, as a celiac, I don't keep any gluten-bearing items in the house. That would be pretty stupid, wouldn't it? I mean, the stuff's like arsenic to me, why would I keep it around? But that's me, and I don't know about Pridemore's kitchen.

Luckily for us, the Tribune, being a responsible journal, was similarly willing to believe that maybe Pridemore's sample was contaminated.
The Tribune recently bought two samples of the chicken nuggets and sent them to the same Nebraska lab. Both tested positive for gluten--including a sample from an unopened box.

The nuggets, said Steve Taylor, the lab's director and a leading allergy expert, "are not safe for people with wheat allergies or celiac disease," often characterized by chronic abdominal pain.
I guess Pridemore isn't stupid, either. Wish we could say the same for the USDA.

The Tribune found that two other "gluten-free" Wellshire products with high amounts of gluten in them. They informed the company of their results:
Wellshire Farms owner Louis Colameco said his products are safe. But he said that in light of the two consumer complaints and recent moves by regulators to tighten "gluten-free" rules, he halted production of the three Wellshire Kids' products in June.

He said he has not recalled the Wellshire Kids products still on store shelves because he believes they are in compliance with federal regulations.
So, even though you know that the products are labeled gluten-free when they are clearly not, even though you have several complaints of children winding up in the emergency room, this murderous clod you think it's OK to leave the products out and available for other children to be sent into anaphylaxis after eating the falsely labeled products. Thanks, Louis. Club any kittens to death recently?

Maybe, Mr.Colameco, you did not knowingly - or even actually - violate the letter of the law. But you've violently gang-raped the hell out of the spirit of it, haven't you? The intent of the law is clear; to help people with severe food allergies find foods that are safe to eat. Your products are NOT safe for people with severe allergies to eat. It should be obvious to any decent human being that these products should be pulled immediately before some other small child bites into his dinner and suddenly finds his esophagus clamping shut and his blood pressure plummets so fast that he can't even call for help as he suffocates in front of his loved ones.

You're a real prince, Louis.


  1. Thank you so much on your support of this article. I actually found myself LOL and I appreciate your wit. I needed that! I'm hoping continued publicity on this topic will result in better labeling and policing of products. Thank you for shining a light on this issue!

  2. Thank YOU for taking up the fight! You're tilting at windmills, I'm only kicking at shins.

  3. Pridemore... thank you for fighting against this... only today am I reading about this and am sooo sad to know of Wellshire Farm's failure to pull their nuggets from the shelves and alert the gluten free community of the issue. My son is 4 and has been eating these disgusting nuggets several times a week since he was diagnosed 2 1/2 years ago with Celiac disease. He's a picky eater and these were something that he would eat. He doesn't have major reactions w/trace amounts, but his failure to spurt in growth after going gluten free (he was "diagnosed" with "failure to thrive" as a toddler prior to the celiac diagnosis) is a major concern for us. It's sad to know that he may have been eating gluten all along. Just makes you feel unsure of all the gluten free processed foods that you buy. FYI, the wellshire farms nuggets stopped being sold at our Whole Foods (in NJ) about a month ago and now are sold under a new name "Garrett Country" -- and the same thing happened in Ohio, where my sister lives (with a Celiac daughter) last summer or late spring. Is this their way of preparing for your story to finally to get media attention -- and to save their company??? Who knows... I'll never trust them again. Shame on them!!!!!!!!!!! -- SEW

  4. I cant belive you eat this stuff let alone trust a multi national to be honest about lableing.
    Hey Elf
    figured Id look in on you.

    so this is what you been up to!

    (poking round trying not to break stuff) looks like fun and its a nice place.

  5. Hi, 2MT-
    Yes, this is what I've been up to, as well as a theatre blog and camera blog.

    With my schedule, I sometimes have to eat pre-packaged stuff. It's usually safer than eating out. usually.