FDA Pushes Food Industry To Clarify Allergen Labels

By Alice Turner
20:18, September 16th 2008




Source of Article:  http://www.efluxmedia.com/news_FDA_Pushes_Food_Industry_To_Clarify_Allergen_Labels_24474.html




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 food groups.

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.



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