Food allergy labeling still misleading

Articles
March 17, 2009

Food allergy labeling still misleading

If you are one of the Americans that suffer from food allergies, you probably know that reading labels is a high priority to avoid what can be life threatening situations. And although, The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) required new labels on packaged foods containing "major food allergens," which were defined as milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts and soybeans, or any other ingredient that contains protein derived from one of these foods or food groups, a new study shows that it’s the ones that say “may contain” or nothing at all that can be risky. Findings from a new study presented Monday at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology's annual meeting, in Washington, D.C., showed that a small number of products contain allergens no matter which ingredients are listed. Senior author Dr. Scott H. Sicherer, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, warned that it is the smaller companies that consumers with food allergies may need to look out for. After 399 products were tested, researchers found a small number of food products with a "may contain" label actually do contain an allergen, while about 2 percent of foods products without such a claim also contain allergens.

If you are one of the Americans that suffer from food allergies, you probably know that reading labels is a high priority to avoid what can be life threatening situations. And although, The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) required new labels on packaged foods containing "major food allergens," which were defined as milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts and soybeans, or any other ingredient that contains protein derived from one of these foods or food groups, a new study shows that it’s the ones that say “may contain” or nothing at all that can be risky.

Findings from a new study presented Monday at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology's annual meeting, in Washington, D.C., showed that a small number of products contain allergens no matter which ingredients are listed.

Senior author Dr. Scott H. Sicherer, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, warned that it is the smaller companies that consumers with food allergies may need to look out for. After 399 products were tested, researchers found a small number of food products with a "may contain" label actually do contain an allergen, while about 2 percent of foods products without such a claim also contain allergens.

The research suggests that some smaller companies may not have the oversight to make sure their products are labeled properly as of now. Its the issue of "may contain"-type labels that was not addressed in the FALCPA. Such warnings can include "may contain peanuts," "processed on shared equipment," or "manufactured in a facility that processes peanuts or milk."

Although egg allergies are generally not life threatening, it’s the peanut allergies that are most dangerous. Scientists suggest that those with this type of allergy may want to stick to products that come from larger companies.