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Food Labels to Identify Allergens Beginning in 2006 – FDA

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As of January 1, 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is requiring all foods containing any ingredients that include protein from the eight major allergenic foods be clearly labeled as such.

This new labeling regulation has been implemented pursuant to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) of 2004, which requires manufacturers to clearly state (in plain English) the presence of ingredients that contain protein derived from:

1)    Milk
2)    Eggs
3)    Fish
4)    Crustacean shellfish (like shrimp)
5)    Tree nuts
6)    Peanuts
7)    Wheat
8)    Soybeans

The label must either list the ingredients or say “contains” and then name the food allergen source.
According to Robert E. Brackett, PhD, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition: "The eight major food allergens account for 90% of all documented food allergic reactions, and some reactions may be severe or life-threatening. Consumers will benefit from improved food labels for products that contain food allergens."

The agency believes the new labeling practice will help children learn to recognize the presence of food they cannot tolerate. The labels will not only list the food itself, but the specific protein it is derived from that may trigger an allergic reaction.

The FDA release states that and estimated 5% of infants and children and 2% of adults in the U.S. have food allergies. Food allergies are dangerous and potentially fatal. They can be triggered by even trace amounts of the allergen. According to the FDA, each year 150 Americans die and some 30,000 are treated in emergency rooms because of allergic reactions to food.

Consumers are warned that during the transition period, products may still carry old labels. Thus, they should be cautious with respect to food items that have been in stores or at home since they may have been labeled before the effective date of the regulation.

This lag is to be expected. Moreover, the ruling does not require food manufacturers or stores to remove targeted food items from shelves or to re-label products that were labeled before January 1, 2006.

For more information about FALCPA, visit FDA’s food allergy page at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/wh-alrgy.html.

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