The Food and Drug Administration has scheduled a public hearing next month to solicit information on how manufacturers currently use advisory labeling for allergens. The agency also wants to learn how consumers interpret different types of advisory labeling statements and what phrases or words are most likely to be effective. IDFA staff plans to attend the hearing and will submit written comments.
FDA currently is developing a long-term strategy to help manufacturers use allergen advisory labeling, such as "may contain" statements, that convey a clear and uniform message and provide adequate information to consumers with food allergies. According to FDA, the hearing, set for September 16, is designed to close "knowledge gaps" that may exist within the agency.
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) mandates allergen labeling for all labeled products containing any of the eight major food allergens: milk, egg, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts and soybean. These foods account for 90 percent of all food allergy reactions. In addition to requiring labeling, the act also directed FDA to study the use of advisory statements for food allergens.
Many processors voluntarily use advisory labels on food products that don't contain allergenic ingredients but still might contain allergenic protein if the products were processed with machinery or in a plant that also processed foods containing the allergens. FDA, however, is concerned that current advisory statements might not be useful or appropriate. In the announcement, the agency cited recent research findings that show many people with food allergies are increasingly ignoring advisory labeling and risking their health as a result.
IDFA will work with members of its Allergen Task Force to develop comments to submit to FDA before the comment period ends January 14, 2009. In addition, Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs, and Michelle Matto, IDFA assistant director of nutrition and labeling, will attend the September hearing. IDFA encourages interested members to attend the hearing and to submit their own comments.
For more information, contact Matto at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-737-4332. More details also are available in the Federal Register announcement.