The new coronavirus has affected nearly every facet of American life, including triggering food shortages here in the United States. Because of this, the FDA has recently granted food producers permission to omit “minor changes” on their ingredient labels. Though we believe the decision was well-intentioned, many people believe it puts those with food allergies at serious risk. Please continue reading to learn more.
What are the specifics of the FDA’s recent announcement?
With the new flexibility, food producers are now allowed to change, omit, or substitute certain ingredients without updating the list of ingredients on the package as long as the change “does not cause any adverse health effect.” The rules stated specifically in the guidelines are as follows:
- The omitted or substituted ingredient cannot be a major ingredient and must only make up 2% or less of the food
- Characterizing ingredients are not allowed to be changed
- The omitted or substituted ingredient cannot impact the product’s nutritional value
Some examples of these omissions, provided by the FDA, are as follows:
- Green peppers can be omitted from the ingredient list of a pre-packaged vegetable quiche
- Companies are allowed to substitute unbleached flour for bleached flour, as long as the bleaching agent is in short supply
- Companies are allowed to substitute canola oil for sunflower oil since they contain similar fats and neither is a common allergen
How does this put people in danger?
When a company produces/distributes any item, they are responsible for ensuring that the product is safe for all. There are three forms of product liability lawsuits: designer negligence, manufacturer negligence, and a failure to warn. When a company fails to clearly label their product to warn consumers of any risks that may come along with using the product, an otherwise safe product can quickly become unsafe. This is true for food as well; if someone has a serious allergen, and they unknowingly come in contact with that allergen because it was not included on the ingredient label, they may have a severe allergic reaction.
Many people and advocacy groups are taking note of this move, as SnackSafely.com CEO Dave Bloom said in a statement, “If you have a food allergy, the substitution of ingredients can be extremely dangerous and can cause anaphylaxis. The fact that they (the FDA) say 2% or less of an ingredient is changed means nothing because even a little trace of an allergen can cause a reaction and send someone to the hospital.” He went on to say, “There are 32 million Americans that have a food allergy – that’s one in 10 of us that are put at risk by this.”
Though we do not know how long this temporary change will continue, we can only hope that no one faces the unintended consequences of this decision. For any further questions, give our New York City personal injury attorney a call today.
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