FDA May Change Food Labeling Requirements

September 02, 2008 09:42 AM
by Lindsey Chapman
Fearing food labels to be too confusing for people with food allergies, the United States and Canada are considering revising labeling standards.

Food Label Confusion

Health officials in the United States and Canada are worried that some labels on food are so confusing that people with food allergies are starting to ignore them altogether.

In 2006, the United States began requiring manufacturers to be more definitive about warnings on foods that intentionally contain known allergens. Accidental contamination—such as when a food is made in a factory containing allergens—weren’t included in the law. 

It’s those “maybes” that health officials are starting to worry about. Some products labeled as possibly containing “trace” amounts of peanuts, for example, have tested at far higher amounts. Past surveys indicate that people are more cautious about labels saying a food “may contain” an allergen than labels about products being “made in the same facility” as allergy-related substances.
Anne Munoz-Furlong, the founder of an allergy network, told the Associated Press, “Right now everybody’s making up their own rules.” Munoz-Furlong said she recently received a basket of fresh fruit with a warning that its contents could contain nuts or milk.

Approximately 12 million Americans have food allergies, and nearly 30,000 emergency room visits a year stem from a food-related problem.

On Sept. 16, the FDA will hold a hearing to address concerns about food labeling issues.

Labels for Drugs

The FDA has already changed its rules to make the warnings on drug labels more decipherable. The problem now is that the changes could protect drug makers from lawsuits. The new rules say companies are required to issue speedy warnings about product safety issues “only when there is clear evidence of a serious risk not yet reviewed by the FDA,” according to The Denver Post. Some lawyers have argued that the change will allow companies to withhold information about potential product dangers.

Related Topic: What is a food allergy?

Reference: Food labels deciphered further


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