In-N-Out Faces Backlash for CEO’s Allergy Safety Comments

By: Sam Watanuki | Published: Jun 20, 2024

Lynsi Snyder, CEO of In-N-Out Burger, recently faced criticism for comments she made about sesame allergies.

Her assertion that the sesame amount in the chain’s burger buns was safe for people with allergies sparked a heated response from allergy advocacy groups.

Snyder's Initial Comment

According to Newsweek, on June 15, Snyder commented on Instagram about the sesame content in In-N-Out’s buns. She stated, “My son has a sesame allergy and the amount in our buns is safe.”

Lynsi Snyder smiling

Source: In-N-Out Burger/Wikimedia Commons

This personal anecdote was meant to reassure, but it did not account for the varying sensitivities among individuals with sesame allergies.

FARE's Response

Sung Poblete, CEO of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), responded strongly to Snyder’s comments.

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Source: National Cancer institute/Unsplash

She said, “Each individual has their own food allergy reaction sensitivity and what is safe for one may cause a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction for another.” Poblete emphasized the danger of generalizing allergy safety.

FDA's Declaration on Sesame

In 2021, the Food and Drug Administration declared sesame as the ninth major food allergen. This decision conveyed the seriousness of sesame allergies, which affect about 0.23 percent of the U.S. population.

An image of a woman dressed in a yellow shirt paying for her groceries

Source: Wikimedia

The FDA’s recognition led to new labeling requirements to protect those with sesame allergies.

New Labeling Laws

Last year, a law was enacted requiring sesame to be listed on food labels as a major allergen.

A person walking through an aisle at a grocery store with products on shelves.

Source: Hanson Lu/Unsplash

Prior to this, sesame was often omitted from ingredient labels, putting those with allergies at risk. This law aims to provide better protection and transparency for consumers.

In-N-Out's Announcement

In-N-Out Burger announced that starting June 12, their hamburger buns would contain a small amount of sesame flour.

in-n-out ad saying quality you can taste

Source: In-N-Out

The company cited industry challenges in ensuring sesame-free buns as the reason for this change. This move was met with mixed reactions from consumers and advocacy groups.


Reasons for Including Sesame

In-N-Out explained that many bakeries struggle to keep their products sesame-free.

A reporter is pictured taking notes

Source: Freepik

Adding sesame flour, which constitutes less than 2 percent of ingredients in their buns, was seen as a practical solution. However, this decision raised concerns about potential allergy risks.


Advocacy Groups' Concerns

Allergy advocacy groups criticized the practice of adding sesame to avoid cleaning manufacturing lines. They argue that this approach compromises the safety of individuals with severe allergies.

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Alex Haney/Unsplash

Poblete highlighted that sesame allergy reactions can be unpredictable and vary widely among individuals.


The Importance of Accurate Information

Poblete condemned Snyder’s comments as “disingenuous in the worst possible way.” She stressed the need for accurate and responsible information regarding food allergies.

A female scientist is pictured reading test results

Source: Freepik

Misleading statements can downplay the risks and lead to dangerous consequences for those with severe allergies.


Recent Price Increases at In-N-Out

Recently, In-N-Out Burger has also faced criticism not just for allergy safety comments but also for raising its prices in California.

General views of In-N-Out Burger on Sunset Blvd after a rainstorm on February 23, 2023 in Hollywood, California with Gavin Newsom

Source: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images; Daniel Nesbitt/Wikimedia Commons

Customers have noted that the cost of their favorite meals has increased, reflecting broader economic trends. These price hikes have sparked discussions about affordability and value in the fast-food industry.


Factors Behind Price Hikes

The price increases at In-N-Out are attributed to various factors, including inflation, supply chain issues, and increased operational costs. These economic pressures are not unique to In-N-Out but affect the entire food service industry.


Eater San Diego

The company is striving to maintain quality while adapting to these financial challenges, though it faces scrutiny from price-sensitive customers.


Looking Ahead

The controversy surrounding Snyder’s comments serves as a reminder of the importance of accurate allergy information.

A large group of people sat around a table eating and drinking.

Source: Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash

As food allergies become more prevalent, companies need to ensure their practices prioritize consumer safety.