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Tracy Finken
Tracy Finken
Attorney • (215) 735-0773

Why Parents Rely on Adequate FDA Labeling

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Are you aware that the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) requires manufacturers to label whether their products contain any of the 8 most common food allergens: egg, peanut, milk, tree nut, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy? Neither was I until my 15 month old son was recently diagnosed with multiple severe food allergies (peanut, soy, wheat, egg, and oat). Since then, I have become neurotic about reading labels.

As a lawyer who has spent my entire career holding manufacturers responsible for inadequate labels, I am now put in the position of relying on the adequacy of labels to do something as simple as feed my son without him having a potential deadly allergic reaction. This does not sit well with me as I have born witness to many products over the years where the label is inadequate to warn of the risks of consumption.

The FALCPA places a duty upon manufacturers to identify whether any of their products contain any of the 8 allergens. If a product is placed into the stream of commerce without labeling known allergens, there is a duty upon the manufacturers to initiate a recall. Recalls are costly and the manufacturers bear the burden of expenses. Despite the cost, manufacturers should initiate a recall before a problem occurs.

While a recall is a company management decision and is usually voluntary, the FDA or the US Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service share regulatory responsibility for food product recalls and can request that a company recall their product. There are three classifications of recalls based upon the nature of the violation.

Class I: This type of recall involves a health hazard where a reasonable probability exists that eating the food would cause serious adverse health consequences or death. An example would be a food that is contaminated with listeria or a food that does notname peanuts or egg as an ingredient.

Class II:This indicates a potential health hazard where a remote probability of adversehealth consequences from eating the food exists or if the resulting condition is temporary or medically reversible.

Class III: This type of recall involves situations where eating the food is not likely to cause adverse health consequences.

There are several websites where you can sign up to receive e-mail notifications of recalls as soon as they are announced such as http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/ContactFDA/StayInformed/GetEmailUpdates/default.htm or

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&_Events/Newsletters/index.asp

In addition, you should always monitor your child closely for potential reactions during meals and make sure that caregivers are aware of your allergy action plan and trained on how and when to us an epi-pen. Quick action is key to preventing tragedy.

1 Comment

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  1. Kathi says:
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    I realize our current system is inconvenient and hardly enforceable already as it is but having the top 8 only singled out is a waste of time for many people in any country. When is somebody going to start demanding we standardize ingredients in food service to mean one formula and one formula only? Think of the terms citric acid (corn or fruit based), natural flavors (this can mean anything and no one knows what that is), natural colors ( natural by whose standards?). There is so many of these traps on a food label. I am in the allergen free business and at times I have to check, cross-check and check again to make sure I am getting the right answers. If I have these difficulties, just imagine what an avarage consumer goes through. The standard pat answer everyone spouts, if in doubt, call the manufacturer. I am sorry but when I call, I KNOW WHAT TO ASK and yet I often get no answer to a “I’m not sure” from the customer service department. I have even had some companies arguing with me that there’s no “corn in my products” to later find out that yes their
    citric acid is corn based.

    So, at present, even though we have a system in place which many in the food service industry feels is so superior (and inconvenient), we still have not been able to actually appreciate the needs of the allergen community and what their condition demands. As the incidence of food allergy diagnosis’ continue to climb, it just makes life that much more arduous for that many more people.