Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Whole Foods Chicken: An Educational Experience

During the week I often make lunches easier by picking up a Whole Foods rotisserie chicken. I usually opt for the perfectly plain, and then de-bone it and flavor it with a marinade. Though I have always appreciated the clear list of ingredients in case I might want to branch out and try another seasoned variety.

Today, however, I learned something very interesting. The chickens were still in the cooker, when a very nice cook asked which kind I preferred, then removed and packaged one for me. Unfortunately, she misheard me and I realized that I cannot eat the lemon-herb seasoned chickens because of the ingredients (I can't have wheat or dairy).

I apologized and said that either the classic or perfectly plain would be find, but the lady was very nice and grabbed the plain chickens off of the top bar, informing me that the classic chickens are cooked at the very bottom of the cooker--so all of the other chickens (including barbecue and lemon herb) drip down, contaminating the classic chickens.

Needless to say, this is disturbing. Nowhere on the label does it say that that the chickens could be contaminated, but then again, they do not say "gluten-free" either.

Fortunately, I just received a very positive response when I called national headquarters. I spoke with Customer Service Specialist Jessie Walker who said that he would send out a global e-mail immediately on this subject. He was careful to warn that their kitchens are unfortunately, not dedicated gluten-free, so there is always a risk of cross-contamination. But that this is an easy enough fix: cook the plain on top, the classic right below, and all else underneath those.

I sure hope that my phone call does make a difference. Though in the future, I will definitely try to only buy chickens fresh out of the cooker so that I can ask on which level the were cooked.