Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (S. 741)

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Millions of Americans Will Be Able to Easily Identify Safe and Unsafe Foods and Stay Healthy: Committee on Energy & Commerce Passes Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (S. 741) to Simplify and Mandate Food Allergen Labeling by 2006 Thursday June 24, 4:36 pm ET Bill will be considered by the full House of Representatives

NEW YORK, June 24 /PRNewswire/ -- The Food Allergy Initiative celebrates a major milestone in its public policy program and applauds the House Committee on Energy & Commerce for its quick approval of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (S. 741), the bill originally authored by U.S. Representatives Nita Lowey and James Greenwood and U.S. Senators Edward Kennedy and Judd Gregg. The bill requires food manufacturers to clearly state if a product contains any of the eight major food allergens responsible for over 90% of all allergic reactions; those allergens are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy. The bill was approved in a voice vote by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act is supported by the Food and Drug Administration and Department of Health and Human Services. Recent studies estimate that over 7 million Americans have a food allergy; the number of children with peanut allergy has doubled in the past five years. Each year, over 250 Americans die due to the ingestion of allergenic foods, and 30,000 receive life-saving treatment in emergency rooms.

The only way for someone with food allergies to keep from having a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction is to completely avoid foods and products that contain the allergens. Food-allergic consumers are forced to decipher labels for every food product they purchase, every time they shop -- a tedious and terrifying process -- made even more difficult by the technical language used in ingredient statements.

Consumers are assumed to know that albumin refers to egg, caseinate to milk, textured vegetable protein to soy. "Natural flavors" could refer to peanuts, tree nuts, or any other food. A recent study at Mount Sinai School of Medicine demonstrated that after reading a series of labels only 7% of parents of children with milk allergy were able to correctly identify products that contained milk and 22% of parents of children with soy allergy were able to correctly identify products that contain soy.

Rep. Lowey explains, "Foods that are safe for most Americans can be deadly for others. Food-allergic consumers depend on food labels to make life-and- death decisions, yet they are forced to crack a code of complicated scientific terms for every food product they eat. It's time for Congress to end this dangerous game by passing my bill to require everyday language and complete food ingredient lists. The Energy and Commerce Committee did a tremendous service for these individuals by passing this bill."

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act would allow food- allergic consumers to more easily identify a product's ingredients, protect themselves from foods that would harm them, and stay healthy. "There is currently no cure for food allergies. Our goal is to develop one by 2010. In the meantime, we are trying to keep our children safe," explains Todd J. Slotkin, Chairman of the Food Allergy Initiative and father of twins with life-threatening food allergies. "If enacted, this bill is the first line of defense in the prevention of deaths and/or serious illness from reactions to foods. We thank the federal legislators for the years of hard work and cooperative bipartisan effort to help the millions of Americans who live in fear of eating the wrong food with every bite they take."

In addition, the bill will benefit the estimated 2 million Americans with celiac disease. The bill calls for the Food and Drug Administration to issue final regulations defining "gluten-free" and permitting the voluntary labeling of products as 'gluten-free' no later than 2008. Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder that is triggered by eating the protein gluten, which is found in grains, including wheat, rye, and barley.

About the Food Allergy Initiative

The Food Allergy Initiative (FAI) is a New York-based, nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting research to find a cure for life-threatening food allergies. In addition to funding research and clinical activities to identify and treat those at risk, FAI supports public policy initiatives to create a safer environment for those afflicted, and educational programs to heighten awareness among health and child care workers, schools, camps, and members of the hospitality and food service industries about food allergies and the danger of anaphylaxis. For more information, please visit the FAI website at [url="http://www.FoodAllergyInitiative.org"]http://www.FoodAllergyInitiative.org[/url] or call 212-527-5835.

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