The Food and Drug
Administration has stepped up to finally force food makers to use a standard
label system for allergens. Currently, food companies are required by the
Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) to place
labels on packaged foods containing most common food allergens, such as milk,
eggs, fish, Crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts and soybeans, or
any other ingredient that contains protein derived from one of these foods or
However, there is no clear indication on the actual labels. Also, there is a
possibly very hard to overcome issue which stems from the fact that food
plants pack many types of food on the same machines. This means that traces
of allergens could find their way even in stuff that doesn't use allergen
ingredients. Again, there is no clear indication on the safe level of
allergens in terms of parts per million or some other standard measure.
The awkward labeling system leads to allergic people eating food which says
it may contain allergens, because almost all packed food now has one of these
labels. Companies, seeking to avoid possible lawsuits, are making sure they
place one of these labels so they stay clear of legal trouble, even when
there might not be a real risk of contamination.
This is, for allergic people, like selling food which says: May contain E.
coli or other harmful bacteria. The FDA wants companies to toss the
"may" factor and state clearly that the food product either does
contain allergens or does not.
The Food and Drug Administration has scheduled a public hearing today,
Tuesday, in order to develop a new labeling system which will provide better
information to allergic consumers. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network claims that more than 12 million Americans are
currently living with food allergies, and there are around 30,000 emergency
room visits every year triggered by allergic reactions.
It is thought that six to eight percent of children under the age of three
have food allergies and nearly four percent of adults. Allergens may induce
anaphylaxis and eventually anaphylactic shock, which is a severe systemic
reaction that may lead to death.