New allergy labelling law in the US passed

Related tags Food Food allergy

A Bill to simplify food allergen labelling by 2006 has been passed
by the US House Subcommittee on Health.

The law will require food manufacturers to clearly state if a product contains the eight major food allergens that are responsible for over 90 per cent of all allergic reactions which are: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy.

"Foods that are safe for most Americans can be deadly for others,"​ said US representative Nita Lowey. "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."​ Recent studies estimate that 1 in every 15 Americans - over 7 million - has a food allergy and 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. The Food Allergy Initiative​ claims that food-allergic consumers are forced to decipher labels for every food product they purchase, and that their lives are made even more difficult because ingredient statements are written for scientists, not consumers.

The pressure group points to a recent study at Mount Sinai School of Medicine that demonstrated that after reading a series of labels only 7 per cent of parents of children with milk allergy were able to correctly identify products that contained milk and 22 per cent of parents of children with soy allergy were able to correctly identify products that contain soy.

This is because over thirty different terms refer to milk - whey, casein et al - and over fourteen terms refer to soy, for example, miso or textured vegetable protein. In addition, food manufacturers are not required to declare if any allergens were used in the natural or artificial flavourings, additives, and colourings.

Supporters of the Food Allergen Labelling and Consumer Protection Act believe that the law will allow food-allergic consumers to more easily identify a product's ingredients, protect themselves from foods that would harm them, and stay healthy.

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