Living with a food allergy is a nightmare, especially if you have many. The threat of suffering from a food allergic reaction can make buying a grab-and-go snack, grocery shopping and going on a casual lunch with friends tricky, if not frustrating and confusing. You will always need to stay vigilant, read all the food labels, and ask for the ingredients of every dish before you make a decision.
Consumers worldwide rely heavily on food labeling to inform them about the nutritional value and ingredients of a product. However, in order to make a wise and calculated decision, you must learn to read and understand the food labels. This article will walk you through everything you need to know about FDA and FALCPA food allergen labeling laws.
What Is the FALCPA Act?
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) was enacted on January 01, 2006. The law required all food manufacturers to clearly identify the presence of any of the major eight allergens (eggs, milk, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, wheat, shellfish, and fish) on the label. FALCPA also instructed the packaged food production companies to write the information about the food allergens in easy, understandable, and readable language.
In simpler words, instead of using complex terminologies or jargon, you must identify food allergens in plain, layman’s language under the ingredients section or “contains” statement. For example, if a product comprises hydrolyzed soy protein, the label must state “contains soy.”
When the FALCPA allergen labeling law was passed, only these 8 foods accounted for approximately 90% of the food allergic reactions and anaphylactic shocks in the United States. However, this changed!
On April 23, 2021, FASTER (Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research) Act was made a part of the FALCPA law. According to the FASTER Act, sesame was now added to the list of most common food allergens that must be declared on all packaged food products in the United States. The FASTER Act went globally into effect on January 01, 2023.
Role of the FDA in Food Allergen Labeling Laws
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for regulating the labeling of all packaged foods in the United States. It is the duty of the FDA to make sure that all ingredients are listed on the food packaging including allergens. The FDA has also established guidelines for volunteer labeling claims like organic, low-fat, and gluten-free. The FDA conducts routine inspections to make sure that the manufacturers comply with all food labeling standards.
Foods That Are Not Covered Under the Food Allergen Labeling Laws
While the FDA and FALCPA food allergen labeling laws regulate dietary supplements and packaged goods, they do not cover egg products, poultry, and meat. Furthermore, alcoholic beverages are also not included in the FALCPA law as it is regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Other items that the FALCPA doesn’t regulate include raw agricultural commodities (fresh fruits and vegetables), cosmetics, drugs, and foods not sold internationally, such as the cookies or chips sold at the local farmer’s stand. High-refined oil derived from any of the nine top food allergens and all ingredients made using these oils are also exempted from the list.
How Should I Read Food Labels?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), food allergies affect over 32 million people in the United States, including 5.6 million children under the age of 18. Thus, consumers must be able to identify potential allergens in the purchased food. Remember that food allergens regulated under the FASTER Act and FALCPA will be called out in the following ways:
1. The allergen’s common name will be included in the ingredient list.
2. The word “contains” will be used to highlight the allergen. For example, “Contains soy and milk.”
3. Parentheses will be used to mention the allergen’s less common form, such as albumin (egg), tuna (fish), almonds (tree nuts), and crab (crustacean shellfish).
If you see the food allergens mentioned in any of the above-mentioned ways, avoid eating the food. However, food allergens not regulated under the FASTER Act or FALCPA, like corn or mustard, might be missing from the list of ingredients if used for flavouring the by-product. Note that these ingredients are covered under a general term like “spices” or “natural flavors.”
Another statement you might see while reading the food labels is “Manufactured in the Facility.” Even though it is voluntary, food manufacturers are advised to include a statement on their packaging mentioning if they produce products using any of the 9 allergens. Here is a hypothetical example of a children’s snack:
Organic Wheat Flour, Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Honey, Organic Sunflower Oil, Organic Brown Sugar, Sea Salt, Leavening (Cream Of Tartar, Baking Soda, and Ammonium Bicarbonate).
Contains Wheat Ingredients
Made on shared equipment that also processed soy, tree nuts, and milk.
As you can see that the manufacturer not only clearly mentions all ingredients but also states that the product was made using the same machines that process soy, tree nuts, and milk. This information will make it easier for the consumer to make an informed decision. Here are some tips for reading food labels:
· If you are confused about a product, ask the manufacturer.
· Familiarize yourself with less-common names of your food allergen. The more you know about your food allergen, the safer you will be.
· If you encounter a product with a food allergen, do not buy it.
· If your child has food allergies, teach them to read the food labels at an early age.
Are You Looking for an Illinois Food Allergy Lawyer?
Have you recently suffered a food allergic reaction? The highly skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced attorneys at Newland & Newland, LLP can file a claim against the responsible party and ensure this doesn’t happen with someone else. An Illinois food allergy lawyer will conduct a full investigation to assess the eatery’s liability for your illness and create a strong case to pursue the financial award you deserve for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and missed workdays.
At Newland & Newland, LLP, our legal advocates will do everything in their power to hold food manufacturers and restaurant operators for the mistakes that could have cost you your life. Give us a call or visit our website to schedule a free consultation right away!