Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) today announced her Food Allergen Consumer Protection Act
Lowey's Bill Could Help Food-Allergic Consumers
Story Filed: Monday, April 30, 2001 6:01 AM EST
FAIRFAX, Va., Apr 30, 2001 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) today announced her Food Allergen Consumer Protection Act, which addresses some of the current problems with food labels. "We applaud Rep. Lowey for her efforts in attracting attention to this growing public health issue," says Anne Munoz-Furlong, founder and CEO of The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.
Four recent studies show: more than half of the manufacturers did not confirm that the information on the ingredient statement matched the ingredients within that package; mislabeled products cause reactions; inaccurate labels have cost lives; and some labels are incomplete, confusing, or misleading.
"Manufacturers have to remember," says Munoz-Furlong, "that food-allergic consumers make decisions that can affect their health based on the information on an ingredient statement."
Food allergies are believed to cause 30,000 emergency room visits, and between 150 to 200 deaths each year. Reactions occur because the individual ate something they thought was safe.
An FDA study of 85 establishments in Wisconsin and Minnesota showed that more than half of the manufacturers did not confirm that the information on the ingredient statement matched the ingredients within that package.
A study on manufacturing and labeling issues reviewed 221 calls from food allergic consumers over 24 months, more than half reported undeclared food allergens in products, a third caused reactions.
In a study of 32 fatal reactions to food, at least one individual died because the cookies he ate had undeclared peanuts.
Some labels are incomplete, confusing or misleading as reported in a survey conducted by FAAN of 760 families who are affected by food allergy. Of particular concern were terms such as may contain and non-dairy -- they are at best confusing and at worst misleading.
"Manufacturers must use Allergy statements such as 'May contain' as judiciously as possible, and not in place of good manufacturing practices," warns Munoz-Furlong. "The explosion in the number of products with 'may contain' has undermined the integrity of food labels, as doctors and patients begin to wonder if they really should avoid that product."
Terms such as "Non dairy" on packages that contain "casein," a milk derivative, are misleading, and are the cause of allergic reactions to milk-allergic children whose parents expect that Non Dairy equals no milk.
"When a doctor makes a diagnosis of food allergy, the patient is told to avoid, milk, or eggs, or wheat. Current labels list these foods in a number of scientific or technical terms including caseinate, albumin, or semolina," notes Munoz-Furlong. "Labels should be written for consumers, not scientists." As one FAAN member put it, "we are not chemists, and neither are Grandma and Grandpa."
"While some manufacturers are doing the right thing on behalf of the food-allergic consumer, others are not. All manufacturers must take food allergies seriously," adds Munoz-Furlong.
[This message has been edited by EILEEN (edited April 30, 2001).]