Why Whole Foods needs to train their employees on food allergies

or: Why Chopped Beef is Vague Terminology

other titles include:

“Why people with food allergies must always be vigilant of everything related to their food” or “why people who are supportive to people with (multiple) food allergies are awesome” or “Why my husband is my hero” or “Why grocery stores that supply prepared food need to be better about identifying all ingredients” or “Even the grocery store can be stressful when you have food allergies”

Ok. So. I’m going to talk about my food allergies, if you don’t care, stop reading, go up to the top of your browser and close the page, continue on with life.

My husband and I went to Whole Foods after work on the way home for some light grocery shopping. We do this often. We decided to get food at Whole Foods for dinner, this happens depending on what’s available. I got to what I’d call the “barbecue counter” if I was me – and I am – and found out they still had baked potatoes. So I ordered a baked potato with chopped beef. I also gathered up a small salad at the salad bar. My husband collected much of our other purchases because my foot was sore and throbbing. No one wants to walk all over the grocery store on a sore throbbing foot.

We get home, we’re putting away groceries, you know. Like you do. I explain to my husband what I purchased for dinner. A baked potato with chopped beef. He asked “Brisket?” No, I explained the beef with the sauce. Not brisket. I elaborated, pointing out how I thought all the meat at the barbecue counter was safe for me to eat. He said no, the chopped beef has Austin’s own barbecue sauce in it which has Worcestershire sauce in it. Worcestershire sauce commonly has fish in it so it’s off-limits for me.

Mentally I sigh and remind myself to be calm. Because I was tired and hungry and didn’t remember to bend over and check the very small print of the ingredients card I didn’t see that I shouldn’t have ordered the chopped beef which has the sauce in it. I was just happy to get a baked potato I guess?

So we debate and come up with options:

1. remove the beef and chance the potato, but the potato has also started soaking up the juices/sauces/etc so that’s not really a great option.

2. get something out of the pantry which would be canned soup or a cold sandwich or a noodle bowl like I had for lunch yesterday, none of these are all that fantastic either

3. just eating the salad is not a legitimate answer because it’d leave me hungry later

4. Call Whole Foods and try to get the ingredients

So phone number to Whole Foods found I call and ask to speak to someone at the barbecue counter. I get transferred. I explain I just purchased a potato with chopped beef and I’d like to know the ingredients of the chopped beef – not the brisket. I explain that by the words barbecue counter I mean hot food. I explain I just purchased it and want to know the ingredients. The girl puts me on hold. She comes back and says “Yes we still have some available.”  I’m thinking, “SERIOUSLY!?!?!? REALLY???” and just say Thanks and hang up. After I hang up I explain to my husband, “I give up, the conversation went from me asking what the ingredients are to yes they have some available.” He (rather calmly) asks for the phone and calls himself. He confirms the present of Austin Own’s barbecue sauce. So, because it’s 2013 I go look up Austin’s Own barbecue sauce on the Internet. They have a website. However they have no food allergy information and do not provide a transparent explanation of ingredients. (I filled out the Contact Us form asking that they post food allergy information on their website.)

Then my husband offers to go out to Jason’s Deli and get me a potato so I can still have a potato. I agree, because that sounds like a fabulous idea. I check the Jason’s Deli website and also ask that he order a cup of beef stew if it’s available since Jason’s Deli has all food allergy information (the major eight) as part of the nutritional information on their site.

So, because:

1. for a split second I wasn’t ever vigilant and missed one ingredients label

2. Austin Own’s doesn’t have a full ingredient list or food allergy information posted online

3. Whole Food’s employees seem to be mostly ignorant of food allergies (beyond other things like how to properly hold a knife when slicing meat)

4. chopped beef may or may not be beef with barbecue sauce

I got to send my husband back out into the cold so I could have a hot meal for dinner that didn’t come out of a can and I feel stupid. Ultimately I feel stupid because I forgot to read just one label. I’m so grateful he offered and was willing to go back out in the cold and get me dinner – before eating his own.

Author: Histamine Queen

Nerd, wife, knitter, writer, cat mom, and comic book reader w/masters of science in Applied Sociology.

I have histamine intolerance, lots of food allergies and sensitivities – including gluten. And I have multiple sclerosis fibromyalgia, asthma, drug allergies, and migraines. Basically, I have a collection of invisible chronic health problems. I don’t just survive these things, but sometimes I do hate them because I see doctors so often that keeping healthy and staying full time employed is currently impossible.