Whole lot of worry
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.
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.