The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) is a law that was enacted by the Congress in 2004 to ensure that all food ingredients are properly labeled. This ensures customers with certain food allergies can deduce whether the food items that they purchase contain the allergens, and hence avoid them, notes the Food and Drug Administration. Therefore, manufacturers are bound by the law to label foodstuffs in the manner laid out in this Act.
According to FALCPA, some types of food can trigger adverse allergic reactions and thus pose a major health risk to consumers. Such foods are classified as serious allergens and usually contain major allergens such as fish (flounder, bass, pollack etc) eggs, milk, wheat, soybean, nuts (peanuts, almonds, coconut, tree nuts, cashew nut etc) and seafood (shrimp, oysters, clams, crustaceans, lobsters, crabs etc)
Foods not subject to FALCPA
FALCPA does not include the following;
- Fresh fruits and vegetables in their natural state. However, any packaged vegetables or fruits are regulated by the FALCPA,
- Foods that are regulated by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) such as poultry, meat, and certain egg products,
- Products that are regulated by the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (ATTB) such as alcoholic drinks, wines, spirits, beers, and tobacco products.
- Highly refined oils obtained from foods deemed as containing allergens such as fish and nuts are exempted due to a specific provision in the law.
- Food from restaurants, fast foods or food bought from street vendors and packaged or wrapped in foils.
- Prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, cosmetics and beauty products, mouthwash, toothpaste, shampoos etc.
- Pet foods, supplements and supplies.
- Spices, colorings and additives are exempted except in cases where the product contains a major food allergen, which must be listed in plain English.
- Barley and Rye are not subject to FALCPA. Rye is hardly used in food, but if it is, it’s always in a form of grain or flour.
- All packaged foods manufactured within the United States or imported from other countries are managed under the FALCPA. However, packaged meat and poultry and certain egg products are exempted. FALCPA provides guidelines that must be followed by a manufacturer who wishes to have a certain food ingredient that is currently covered by the FALCPA exempted from the labeling requirements. Such ingredients can only be exempted if sufficient proof is provided that they are incapable of triggering an allergic reaction that may pose a threat to human health. Such ingredients must also not contain any allergic protein.
FALCPA provides mechanisms by which a manufacturer may request that a food ingredient may be exempted from FALCPA’s labeling requirements as discussed below.
Foods Exempt under Notification or Petition
According to FALCPA, any person can send a petition for an exemption to the Secretary of Health and Human services. This can either be via notification process or a petition process. Scientific evidence is required to prove that such food ingredients do not contain allergenic protein that are deemed as risky to human health.
If the secretary grants a petition or the notification, the food ingredient in question is not classified as a major food allergen, and hence it isn’t subjected to the labeling requirements.
Photo of spices by John Nyboer