I tried some of the Moringa Seed Oil Body Butter - I'd used other body butters from Bodyshop before, so I wasn't really worried about it, and not being food, it didn't even enter my head to check the label. I didn't put it on my face (thank goodness) but put some on my back and chest. A couple of minutes later I was about to go to bed, and realised that I was becoming short of breath.
I thought this was odd as I'd taken my night-time antihistamine (one of the stronger 6-8 hours ones) about an hour beforehand and had been fine, and this was very sudden.
I tried lying down to see if it would help, and could feel my airways contracting and the prickly itching under my chin that makes me think "I've eaten Brazil nuts". I was confused though, as I hadn't eaten anything, so I called B in and asked him to check the ingredients on the body butter. I have no idea what Moringa seed is, so it could have been a new allergy that I'd need help with, but jokingly said, "There isn't anything like brazil nuts in that stuff, is there?" Checking the ingredients, brazil nut oil was one, so I found that I had rubbed into my skin a reasonable amount of the stuff. Being very greasy and already rubbed in, it was hard to get off, but I washed it off and took a ridiculous amount of antihistamines, and thankfully didn't get to the stage where I had to use my Epipen.
Took me about an hour to get to to stage where I was breathing easily enough to go back to bed.
My daughter has a severe brazil nut allergy. This first emerged when she was two, and I fed her a brazil nut one evening. Within minutes, she was screaming and her face swelled and puffed out till she looked like a baby version of the Phantom of the Opera. I gave her a couple of spoonfuls of liquid anti-histamine for kids and called out the emergency doctor, who told me I'd done the right thing. It took almost a day for her to recover. Any time after that that she's accidentally come into contact with any trace of brazil nuts-- a single chocolate in a selection of pralines, even salad from a salad bowl that had previously had brazil nuts in it-- she's had the same extreme reactions, of which the accompanying breathing difficulties are the most alarming.
But neither she nor I had suspected that beauty products might contain brazil nut ingredients. And there wasn't any warning on the product. I looked up Moringa Seed Oil Body Butter on the Body Shop web site. It's advertised as "new" and even bears an endorsement from Good Housekeeping Magazine, but there's nothing in the instructions or "tips" on the sites to alert you to what the effect of using the product could be if you have brazil nut allergy.
This is the list of ingredients carried on the web site:
Do you know the botanical name for brazil nuts? I didn't, despite my daughter's allergy. It's Bertholletia Excelsa. So you would only realise that if you knew. My daughter's never been aware of brazil nuts as a component in a cosmetic product, so she hadn't checked the label before she used it. She told me that the actual pot does include an identification of Bertholletia Excelsa as brazil nuts.
Nowhere on the Body Shop site have I been able to find any indication that there might be problems of any sort for allergy sufferers with any of their products.
Given the severity of my daughter's reaction, that's really surprising--and alarming.
What most concerns me is this apparent response from the Body Shop's Consumer Help Desk in Canada:
Thank you for taking the time to write to us.
Because anaphylactic allergies are dangerous, we cannot guarantee any of our products to be nut-free. Our manufacturers use the same equipment to make different products so we cannot guarantee against the possibility of cross-contamination in any of the products we carry.
We hope this information helps. If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact us.
Consumer Help Desk
The Body Shop Canada
As an approach to Consumer Help, I'd say it must deserve a place in a Hall of Shame for which there's quite a lot of competition. However, that's the Canadian branch.
I'll be writing to the UK Body Shop. For a start, that sample of Moringa Seed Oil Body Butter was included in a "free gift" given out unsolicited to customers. Had it been tested for allergy reactions? Does the Body Shop give any warnings to its customers about potential allergic reactions? How do they respond to customers who experience them? And what do they do about products where users report reactions as severe as my daughter's.
As she said when she first let me know about it, the Body Shop is very committed to not testing on animals, and to using "natural" products. Does that mean it feels its products therefore must be pure and good, and it's up to the customers to find out if there's any problems with any of them?
I'll let you know what the UK Body Shop has to say. Meanwhile, if you or anyone you know has an allergy to brazil nuts, perhaps you could alert them to the possibility of a very nasty reaction they might get if they try Body Shop Moringa Seed Oil Body Butter.