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Food Allergies: Reducing the Risks

FDA Public Hearing on Labeling

FDA held a public hearing on September 16, 2008, to help the agency determine how manufacturers use advisory labeling for food allergens.

FDA is also evaluating how consumers interpret different advisory labeling statements, as well as what wording is likely to be most effective in communicating the likelihood that an allergen may be present in a food.

"The public hearing was held in part to address labeling that manufacturers voluntarily use because of cross contact concerns," says Felicia Billingslea, director of the Food Labeling and Standards Staff in FDA’s Office of Nutrition, Labeling and Dietary Supplements.

Cross contact may occur during:

  • Harvesting
  • Transportation
  • Manufacturing
  • Processing
  • Storage

Many food manufacturers may try to prevent cross contact through the use of dedicated facilities or dedicated production lines. Also, a variety of advisory statements are used on pack­age labels to indicate possible cross contact. For example, a label might indicate: "Produced in a plant that processes wheat."

FDA asked twelve questions at the public hearing that related to the use of specific advisory statements and advisory labeling in general.

Some of the questions asked were:

  • What specific advisory statements adequately inform consumers of the potential risk of cross contact with allergenic materials?
  • What advisory statements most accurately communicate to consumers and their caregivers the potential risk of the presence of an allergen? Why?

Advice for Consumers

If you have food allergies, you must be prepared for unintentional exposures. To protect yourself, the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) recommends that you:

  • Wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace stating that you have a food allergy and are subject to severe reactions.
  • Carry an auto-injector device containing epinephrine (adrenaline) that you can get by prescription and give to yourself if you think you are experiencing a food allergic reaction.
  • Seek medical help immediately if you experience a food allergic reaction, even if you have already given yourself epinephrine, either by calling 911 or getting transportation to an emergency room.

For more information about topics for your health, visit the FDA Consumer Information Center (www.fda.gov/consumer). 

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WebMD Public Information from the FDA