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March 1, 2007

Does the Food Allergy Labeling Law Go Too Far?

Presenters at the at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) annual meeting say that food allergy labelling rules may create challenges for the food allergy community.

Beginning January 2006, the Food Allergen Labelling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) came into effect and required producers to label whether their products contain any of the 8 common food allergens. We've all see the "may contain" statements to identify egg, peanut, milk, tree nut, fish, shellfish, wheat or soy.

Researchers at University of Nebraska-Lincoln analysed labelling of cookies in summer 2005 and then in summer of 2006. They purchased every type of cookie available at four major stores in two states and reviewed the labels for compliance with the act. They found the new law is definitely having an impact.

Of 821 different types of cookies examined, 82% were in compliance 6 months ahead of the new rules. Imported cookies were less likely to be compliant than cookies produced domestically (70% compared with 86%).

One concern raised is the increased difficulty for those on avoidance diets. Food allergic consumers have many fewer choice because of the increase in "may contain" warnings on food labels. Does the new law go too far? The study found that only 7% of cookies have peanuts in the ingredient list, but another 39% had "may contain peanuts" warnings.

As parents, we tend to err on the side of safety. If it says "may contain", it's off our list. Are our kids missing out on some store bought goodies? Sure. However, I'd argue that they are eating much better and healthier because their mom loves them and puts in the extra effort on the homemade cookie front.


Posted by David at March 1, 2007 7:28 AM