Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) today announced her Food Allergen Consumer Protection Act

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By EILEEN on Mon, 04-30-01, 20:47

Lowey's Bill Could Help Food-Allergic Consumers
[url="http://library.northernlight.com/FA20010430940000037.html?cb=0&dx=1006&sc=0#doc"]http://library.northernlight.com/FA20010430940000037.html?cb=0&dx=1006&sc=0#doc[/url]

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).]

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By EILEEN on Mon, 04-30-01, 20:49

This is the National Food Processors Association (NFPA) responses to the proposed bill detailed above.

NFPA Stresses Need for Cooperative Efforts on Food Allergen Labeling, Rather Than New Legislation
[url="http://library.northernlight.com/FB20010430620000117.html?cb=0&dx=1006&sc=0#doc"]http://library.northernlight.com/FB20010430620000117.html?cb=0&dx=1006&sc=0#doc[/url]

Story Filed: Monday, April 30, 2001 9:17 AM EST

WASHINGTON, Apr 30, 2001 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- In response to the announcement by Rep. Nita Lowey of New York that she will introduce legislation on the labeling of allergens in food products, Dr. Rhona Applebaum, Executive Vice President of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs for the National Food Processors Association (NFPA), made the following comments:

"The food industry takes the issue of food allergens very seriously. Food companies have taken the lead in developing manufacturing practices to help avoid the inclusion of any unlabeled allergens in food products, as well as in ensuring the accuracy of food labeling when it comes to the presence of allergens in food products.

"While Congressional interest in the important topics of food safety and food allergens is understandable, we believe that legislation is not necessary. Existing regulations clearly require that all ingredients be listed on food labels in order to protect consumers with food allergies, and FDA has ample authority to enforce those regulations. The food industry is now working with FDA and with consumer groups on new guidelines to ensure that industry practices are truly effective in providing accurate labeling for the presence of allergens in food.

"In April, NFPA released an industry 'Code of Practice' for managing food allergens, which specifically addresses allergen labeling. The Code was developed with input not only from NFPA's member companies but also from the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, the leading consumer group addressing this issue. It is the food industry's position that food processors must be diligent in informing consumers about the presence of allergens in products.

"Equally important, our industry continues to work with government and consumer groups on education efforts to provide consumers with the information they need on the important issue of food allergies. We believe that education is critical for consumers with food allergies to ensure that they know how to read food labels and get the information they need on these products."

NFPA is the voice of the $460 billion food processing industry on scientific and public policy issues involving food safety, nutrition, technical and regulatory matters and consumer affairs.

For more information on this issue, contact Timothy Willard, NFPA's Vice President of Communications, at 202-637-8060; Libby Mikesell, Senior Director of Communications, at 202-639-5919; or visit NFPA's Website at [url="http://www.nfpa-food.org"]http://www.nfpa-food.org[/url] .

[This message has been edited by EILEEN (edited April 30, 2001).]

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By Cayley's Mom on Tue, 05-01-01, 00:53

Interesting information, Eileen, thanks for posting it (where DO you find all these fantastic articles?).

Now, I'm wondering which will take longer to implement - the legislation or the self-mandated food industry guidelines? Most likely legislation, but even if the NFPA moves forward quickly, the guidelines will still be voluntary. And who will ensure that the standard is the same for all manufacturers? And, most of all, isn't putting the NFPA in charge of food allergy labeling a little like the fox guarding the hen house? Are there fines for non-compliance? Will these non-complying manufacturers be made public, in the interest of our safety?

So many questions - what a mountain of an issue. Here's hoping it doesn't take until the next decade to implement positive change. Highest kudos to Rep. Nita Lowey for this bill!

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