Food Allergy Labels Too Vague
FDA Hearing Examines Need to Simplify Allergy Warning Labels on Food
WebMD News Archive
Demystifying Food Allergy Labels continued...
About 2% of American adults and about 5% of infants and young children are
affected by food allergies. The FDA estimates that
allergic reactions to food cause 30,000 emergency room visits, 2,000
hospitalizations, and 150 deaths each year in the U.S. and indirectly affect
millions of families, teachers, and caregivers.
Separate from the advisory labeling, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer
Protection Act of 2004 requires that FDA-regulated foods labeled after Jan. 1,
2006, list in plain English all ingredients that are, or are derived from, the
eight most common food allergens: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree
nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. Together they account for about 90% of food
allergies, according to the FDA.
Industry groups and FDA officials emphasized that advisory labels are not a
replacement for "good manufacturing practices" that curb the risk of
Alison Bodor, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the
National Confectioners Association, urged the FDA to establish allergen
"thresholds," which attempt to gauge what levels of an allergen can
safely be present in a food without causing an allergic
She cautioned that thorough cleaning or using separate equipment entirely is
unrealistic for many manufacturers, and that despite the vagueness of some
companies' warnings, people should heed them carefully.
Public advocates also testified about the problems allergy sufferers face
daily trying to find safe food for themselves and their families.
Anne Carter of the Food Allergy Group of Northern Virginia said some group
members are playing Russian roulette with food labels; teenagers and young
adults are especially at risk when they start to make food decisions for
themselves, she says.
FAAN member Lisa Punt shared a story about her now-teenaged son, who has a
severe nut allergy. She recalled how
she made sure to have plenty of candy corn at past Halloweens because it was
one of the few foods her son could safely eat. But it soon became impossible to
find candy corn without advisory warnings.
"Does candy corn really have walnuts, pecans, or cashews in it? Nobody
knows," she said.