Are Samples at Grocery Stores Safe?

Last updated: October 2022

My friend and I sat at the lake chatting about our jobs. She grabbed a snack from her bag and asked if I wanted one. Of course, I had to look at the wrapper because I hadn't seen the snack before. She and I have different food allergies, so I was curious how she found this safe snack.

Samples at the grocery store are back

She said they were giving out samples at the grocery store. She said she was surprised because this was the first time she had seen food samples at a grocery store since the COVID-19 pandemic started! She said she REALLY wished a particular warehouse store would start giving out their samples again.

Shopping at the warehouse store

Ah, the warehouse store. The place where I go in with my list and come out with $250 worth of stuff. The place where I waited in the truck while my husband "just ran in to get some muffins." And then he called me from the store because they had an excellent price on a paddle board, and it could be an early birthday present, you know!

Before the pandemic (when most stores still handed out food samples), we were trying to get out in 1 piece at a warehouse store. You know how it goes - survival of the fittest with those oversized grocery carts or flatbed carts with everyone trying to load up and get out of the store.

My son with food allergies checking out samples

I was there shopping for my family of 5. My middle son was with me on this shopping trip and wanted to see what samples they were distributing.

I tossed something in my cart and noticed him approaching a sample stand. This sample stand had a type of granola bar, so I instantly panicked! Manufacturers of granola bars often put tree nuts or peanuts in their products. But I was too far from the table to see the brand of granola bar they were handing out.

Suddenly I had tunnel vision as I saw my son reach for the granola bar sample. I felt like I was running in slow motion, yelling, "Noooo!"

Stopping my son just in time

I made it to him in record time and felt like a football player swerving around shopping carts and jumping over flatbed carts.  I grabbed my son's arm, which made him drop the sample. Phew!

I asked the staff what ingredients were in the granola bar. She said she didn't know...shouldn't they know what is in the sample they are handing out to the shoppers so that they can warn people if it contains commonly known allergens?

Samples containing common allergens

I grabbed the massive box and started to scan the ingredients list. Sure enough, it contained tree nuts.

I was trying to catch my breath but wasn't sure if it was because of my mad dash to get to my son or sheer panic. I finally told my son that the granola bars had tree nuts. He would have anaphylaxis!

The staff member looked back at me blankly, and I knew she didn't understand how serious that was. I tried to explain food allergies to her and that she should make sure any kids ask their parents for permission before they start grabbing samples.

I told my son to stick by my side the rest of the time we were in the store. I didn't want him to wander and get another sample.

Double check before trying samples

Now that stores are starting to give out samples again, I hope they will put allergy warning signs on the table for the most common food allergens. Even though I thought I looked like an Olympic athlete hurdling shopping carts, I probably looked like Winnie the Pooh.

Has anyone else had a close call when their child reached out for a food sample containing their allergen?

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