In addition to relaxing social restrictions due to COVID-19, on May 22nd the FDA issued a document relaxing food-labeling standards for manufacturers.

This might seem like a small, insignificant matter for some, but for the food allergy community this is a dangerous announcement. This allows ingredients to be swapped out without the label reflecting the change. For example, because they contain similar types of fats, the substitution of canola oil for sunflower oil will be permitted without a label change.

The aim of this document, entitled Temporary Policy Regarding Certain Food Labeling Requirements During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency: Minor Formulation Changes and Vending Machines, is to encourage and assist tightly-pressed manufacturers to produce more food to stock on grocery stores’ empty shelves.

Although the FDA guidelines recommend the top 8 allergens and 5 priority allergens not be substituted, this creates unnecessary anxiety for the food allergy community, particularly those who suffer from uncommon food allergies. Even allergens not listed in the “top 8” can trigger life-threatening reactions. In a time when our healthcare system is strained by the overflow of COVID-19 patients, the threat of accidental exposure to an allergen is the bitter icing on the sour cake.

Spokin has a list of verified manufacturers who will remain reliable even with the new FDA regulations.
Spokin has a list of verified manufacturers who will remain reliable even with the new FDA regulations.

FEI and other allergy advocacy organizations are working to call out the potential consequences of the new FDA guidelines. We signed a petition to modify these guidelines, including calling on food manufacturers to announce any recipe changes not just on their labels, but on their social media channels and websites.

As the current guidelines allow for each manufacturer to determine their own production standards on this matter, Spokin, one of FEI’s valued partners, created a list of more than 65 brands that reported that they will not change their ingredients, even following the relaxation from the FDA. This list includes Spokin verified brands and others who are dedicated to reassuring the food allergy community of their reliability of ingredients and labeling.

Labels exist to inform consumers about their food choices, whether that be for calorie counters, picky eaters, people with food allergies, or just for those who like to read. These labels help us confidently and safely purchase our food.

All our bodies will be impacted, but for some, these impacts could be disastrous.

The fight is still ongoing, as the petition is currently under consideration. Join FEI and raise your voice today by leaving a comment on regulations.gov. Help us continue to protect the food allergy community.

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