May 26, 2020
The FDA has created a new temporary policy for food-labeling during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their goal is to “minimize the impact of supply chain disruptions on product availability”. Essentially, food manufacturers can make minor changes to ingredients within the product, without changing the label. This poses issues for people within the food allergy community. Manufacturers must still adhere to rules regarding the top 8 allergens, but some smaller changes may be made.
The FDA wrote that, “several other foods (such as sesame, celery, lupin, buckwheat, molluscan shellfish, and mustard) are recognized as priority allergens in other parts of the world, including Canada, European countries, and Japan. There are also other ingredients (such as glutamates and sulfites) that can cause adverse reactions. Manufacturers should avoid substitutions that could result in a safety concern without making a conforming label change or providing other means to inform consumers of the change.” This does not seem as if the FDA is going to enforce this rule, and overall seems too lax. The words “should avoid” makes protecting individuals with food allergies seem like an option to the manufacturer, not a requisite.
While not as common as peanut allergies or anything else in the top 8, these foods the FDA describes as “priority allergens in other parts of the world” are dangerous to certain individuals and can cause anaphylaxis.
Additionally, substitution of “highly-refined” oils can be made without notice. The FDA states that if the oil is “highly-refined” and does not pose an allergenic risk, then the substitution can be made. The FDA also claims that highly-refined oils themselves do not pose an allergenic risk, so manufacturers can use them if they are “2 percent or less by weight of the finished food”. So these oils can be included despite the fact that many people with food allergies tend to avoid these oils to be extra cautious. So you could be eating something with highly-refined peanut oil in it and not even be aware of it.
It’s very important to check with the manufacturer if you aren’t sure about the ingredients in the foods you plan to eat. For more information, check the FDA’s website.