International food delivery service HelloFresh has apologised to a Kiwi mum after her 15-month-old daughter suffered a severe allergic reaction to an ingredient in one of its meals.
The traumatic experience unfolded for the mother earlier this week when her daughter's face, tongue, and lips became swollen after consuming a HelloFresh chicken taco meal. The 15-month-old was also struggling to breathe.
"She literally had a piece of chicken and things started to go pear-shaped. She started screaming and crying, and her face started blowing up and her lips went really big and her tongue was going big, and she was going wheezy - it was pretty intense," she told Newshub.
The mother, who wished to remain anonymous, said she immediately called an ambulance.
"It happened while she was eating dinner and the ambulance officer said that food allergies usually happen instantaneously," she said.
"Very easily, she could have not been breathing. She could have died."
She said it was the first time her daughter had experienced an allergic reaction - but she had a suspicion on what might have caused it.
"The only thing she had in her meal that she had never had before was the combination of the spices."
She said she contacted HelloFresh to find out what ingredients were in the spices so she could advise her daughter's doctor. It took nearly 24 hours for a definitive response.
"All they would tell me is; 'spices, herbs, salt, sugar', and I'm like that's too vague - I need to know what the herbs are? What are the spices?
"That's what they wouldn't get back to me for ages, until just before 6pm tonight [Tuesday]."
After finally receiving the information, she believed it was likely paprika her daughter reacted to.
"The doctor said that [paprika] can be an allergen," she said. "That in itself isn't HelloFresh's fault - it was the fact they took that long to tell me what was in the food that she had.
"I was pretty pissed off by the time by the time I got that [information] because it had been so long and, also, I'd had to speak to so many different people that weren't listening to me.
"In that type of situation - that's so urgent - you need to know that."
In a statement to Newshub, HelloFresh admitted it took too long to respond to the incident.
"We were very sorry to hear about the incident and we have been working closely with the customer to investigate the situation and find a resolution," a spokesperson said.
"The customer reached out to us in the evening and we were not able to respond until the next day, while we contacted the supplier for the specific spice information.
"We accept this is too long for an incident like this.
"HelloFresh follows the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) which governs labelling requirements on all grocery items, where 'herbs' and 'spices' can be named generically if they do not contain any known allergens or additives based on the code. The ingredients within these are the intellectual property (IP) of a supplier and aren't disclosed to us."
The spokesperson said HelloFresh had launched an internal review.
"We will be making changes, including exploring ways we can hold third party IP in a confidential manner, to ensure we can respond more urgently in the future."