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May 10, 2007

Problems with Food Allergy Warning Labels

NPR published an online food allergy article regarding the new labeling law that went into effect in 2006. By now, you probaly know about this law. Starting in 2006, all food products must clearly state whether they have one of the top allergens (peanuts, egg, milk, soy, tree nuts, wheat, fish). But there are still problems with the labels that you have to watch out for.

The now common MAY CONTAIN label is unregulated by the FDA. This label is a catch-all (or CYA, if you prefer) for companies that don't have a "clean" manufacturing environment (that is, each product line controls its ingredients to ensure no cross contamination). I've been in "clean" manufacturing facilities before and know well that it takes a lot of effort and money to ensure an environment without cross contamination. The pharma manufactures have this as a standard but their product margins are quite different than most food manufacturers.

The real problem is what does "may contain" really mean? Maybe that product is loaded with peanuts, maybe there is none. The NPR article mentions that teens are ignoring the label due to its ambiguity and the fact that it is found on so many products. That's a scarey thing but teens are known for taking risks.

Posted by David at May 10, 2007 7:53 AM


Scary indeed, David! I probably sent you the Spring issue of the Be Aware. Be Safe. bulletin, which addresses this same issue. For people who don't deal with food allergies on a regular basis, it is really confusing. I have it in pdf format so that it can be printed and freely distributed. Feel free to share it with anyone else who may find it helpful. http://www.checkmytag.com/downloads.html

Posted by: Ria Sharon at May 10, 2007 3:12 PM