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Thursday, January 08, 2004

Egg wash or white wash, Publix isn’t saying. 

We recently conducted a survey of the three major supermarket chains in west central Florida. A reader wrote that they had found misinformation regarding the ingredients listed on bread products at Publix Stores, namely egg wash. Our reader asked a bakery associate at Publix if there were any breads available that did not receive an egg wash before baking.

The Publix employee stated that not all the breads were in fact egg washed, just certain ones: for instance French hamburger rolls The employee went on to state that the labels were printed with the egg wash ingredient included as a matter of routine, when in fact it did not actually certify the presence of the egg ingredient.

We sent shoppers to Publix, Winn Dixie and Kash n' Karry stores, eight outlets in total. This is what they found. Both Winn Dixie and Kash n' Karry listed egg wash on selected bread products and omitted it on others. We checked with personnel at Winn Dixie and Kash n' Karry who confirmed that they did distinguish between egg washed breads and non-egg washed as a matter of compliance with the FDA regulations regarding labeling. When we contacted Publix for clarification of their policy concerning this labeling discrepancy they did not respond to our request.

According to the Publix Store web site, Publix Super Markets is the largest and fastest-growing employee-owned supermarket chain in the United States. There are a total of 792 Publix supermarkets locations in 5 states: which include

Florida - 595
Georgia - 146
South Carolina - 33
Alabama - 11
Tennessee - 7

Our investigation revealed that at Publix Stores there is a significant oversight regarding implementation of FDA regulations concerning ingredient labeling. The USFDA has regulated product labeling in one form or another since 1862.You can read more about the function and responsibility of the FDA at their website. Use standards for labeling on all consumer products distributed in the United States is regulated by a uniform code known as Regulation 21CFR 101.4(a)(1) Food Designation of Ingredients, which states: Ingredients required to be declared on the label or labeling of a food, including foods that comply with standards of identity. The regulation means that failure to apply these standards constitutes non-compliance by a manufacturer and can garner severe penalties including but not limited to letters of complaint, fines and or criminal charges.

There exists a simplified procedure by which consumers may register their concern regarding non-compliance by any vendor in the United States. To report problems, including adverse reactions, related to any food except meat and poultry, contact the FDA district office consumer complaint coordinator for your geographic area.

If the problem involves meat or poultry, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, call the USDA hotline at 1-800-535-4555.

Many shoppers rely on accurate ingredient listing, mandated by the FDA, to make decisions that impact their health. Recent studies by the "American Family Physician", vol. 56, no.5, found that, "In the United States, the foods most commonly responsible for allergic reactions in children are milk, eggs and peanuts. About 20 percent of the population worldwide can be considered allergic."

According to the Vegetarian Resource Group web Site, "In a 2003 Vegetarian Resource Group Harris Interactive survey, 2.8 percent of those surveyed said they never eat meat, poultry, or fish/seafood."

The reality of manufacturer/supplier labeling compliance not with standing it is apparent that accurate and reliable ingredient listing on products is not merely the law, it is a corporate responsibility, a responsibility to be accurate, definitive, and most importantly responsive to comsumer requests for reliable information regarding the healthfulness and safety of the product they are selling. Law mandates it, the public deserves it and Publix owes it to their customers.


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