Whole lot of worry

Auckland City Harbour News - - Front Page - By Scott Mor­gan

AN AUCK­LAND mother is call­ing for bet­ter la­belling on bot­tles of Whole wa­ter af­ter her daugh­ter was rushed to hospi­tal af­ter drink­ing it.

Kristy Ox­en­ham says her one-year-old daugh­ter Ruby, who is al­ler­gic to dairy prod­ucts, spent four hours in hospi­tal af­ter she drank about 5ml of the bot­tled wa­ter and went into ana­phy­lac­tic shock.

Dairy gi­ant Fon­terra, which pro­duces the prod­uct, meets la­belling re­quire­ments by list­ing milk pro­tein on the in­gre­di­ents panel.

The com­pany apol­o­gised to the fam­ily af­ter the in­ci­dent but Mrs Ox­en­ham says she’s up­set prom­ises of bet­ter la­belling haven’t been met.

While Ruby’s or­deal hap­pened in March, the fam­ily de­cided to speak out af­ter they heard of an­other child hav­ing a se­vere al­ler­gic re­ac­tion to the prod­uct in the last month.

“Af­ter see­ing Ruby’s re­ac­tion, you feel like it’s a bot­tle of poi­son,” she says.

“You don’t want it to hap­pen to some­one else.”

Whole is a wa­ter-based drink with added milk pro­tein and fi­bre, which Fon­terra says can “bridge the hunger gap” be­tween meals.

The Mt Al­bert moth­erofhad to act quickly once she re­alised the prod­uct con­tained milk pro­tein, in­ject­ing Ruby with a dose of adrenalin to counter the al­ler­gic re­ac­tion.

That eased the vom­it­ing, cough­ing, dif­fi­culty breath­ing and hives caused by drink­ing the wa­ter, but Ruby was still rushed to hospi­tal by am­bu­lance, where she stayed un­der ob­ser­va­tion be­fore be­ing re­leased.

“The hard­est part is try­ing to de­cide whether or not you’re go­ing to stab your child in the leg with an inch­long nee­dle.”

Mrs Ox­en­ham says it has taken her up to four hours to com­plete the fam­ily’s gro­cery shop­ping since Ruby was di­ag­nosed with the milk al­lergy, check­ing ev­ery prod­uct’s in­gre­di­ents.

But milk pro­tein in a bot­tle of wa­ter isn’t some­thing you would ex­pect to find, she says.

Al­lergy New Zealand chief ex­ec­u­tive Penny Jor­gensen says the or­gan­i­sa­tion knows of a sim­i­lar in­ci­dent and has worked with Fon­terra to ed­u­cate those who could be af­fected.

She says it is a con­cern that some peo­ple might not be aware Whole con­tains milk pro­tein.

“Ba­si­cally stuff is go­ing into prod­ucts you wouldn’t ex­pect it to be in.

“When you see it on the shelf, it’s not clear at all. We would like to see more in­for­ma­tion go­ing out.”

At the rate food tech­nol­ogy is mov­ing, Mrs Jor­gensen says Par­lia­ment may need to look at re­view­ing the law.

“It’s pos­si­ble this is one of the ar­eas where new food tech­nol­ogy is out­strip­ping the leg­is­la­tion.”

New Zealand Food Safety Au­thor­ity as­sis­tant di­rec­tor Jenny Reid says Fon­terra is tak­ing a proac­tive step in ex­ceed­ing la­belling reg­u­la­tions.

But with food tech­nol­ogy con­stantly chang­ing, there might be “need for an up­date” to the reg­u­la­tions.

Fon­terra mar­ket­ing and in­no­va­tion man­ager Brett Charl­ton says the com­pany is aware of three cases where peo­ple have had an al­ler­gic re­ac­tion to Whole.

He says af­ter con­sult­ing Al­lergy New Zealand, it has de­signed new la­bels stat­ing that Whole con­tains milk pro­tein and fi­bre, which will hit the shelves this month.

Sev­eral fac­tors, in­clud­ing the long shelf life of Whole, have meant an­other print run of its la­bels hasn’t been nec­es­sary since its launch in March, he says.

Mr Charl­ton says bot­tles that have the old packaging will have a sticker placed on the lid to warn peo­ple they con­tain milk pro­tein.

Photo: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

Wa­ter wor­ries: Kristy Ox­en­ham wants bet­ter la­belling on Whole wa­ter, which con­tains milk pro­tein, af­ter her daugh­ter Ruby, who is al­ler­gic to dairy prod­ucts, went into ana­phy­lac­tic shock af­ter con­sum­ing a small amount of the drink.

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