The Food Allergen Labeling And Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) took effect on January 1st 2006. It requires that food labels state the presence of any “major food allergens.” These labels can take two different forms:
1.Manufacturers may include the name of the food source in parenthesis following the common or usual name of the major food allergen in the list of ingredients in instances when the name of the food source of the major allergen does not appear elsewhere in the ingredient statement. For example:
Ingredients: Enriched flour (wheat flour, malted barley, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), sugar, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, and/or cottonseed oil, high fructose corn syrup, whey (milk), eggs, vanilla, natural and artificial flavoring) salt, leavening (sodium acid pyrophosphate, monocalcium phosphate), lecithin (soy), mono-and diglycerides (emulsifier)
Note “(wheat flour…)” and “(milk)”, etc.
2.Manufacturers may place the phrase “Contains…” followed by the name of the food source from which the major food allergen is derived, immediately after or adjacent to the list of ingredients. For example:
Contains Wheat, Milk, and Soy
Although this will be a significant improvement for celiacs, there are some important points to be aware of:
The law only requires that the presence of milk, eggs, fish (e.g., bass, flounder, cod), Crustacean shellfish (e.g., crab, lobster, shrimp), tree nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts, pecans), peanuts, wheat, and soybeans be stated. It does not cover rye or barley.
The law only requires information on allergens that are in the ingredients of a product. It does not address contamination from shared production lines or equipment.
FALCPA does not require specific information about what ingredients contain an allergen. If a allergen is identified in the ingredients statement (the first example above) it need only be started for one ingredient. Subsequent ingredients with the same allergen do not need to state that they contain it. If the manufacturer uses a “Contains” statement you have no indication about what ingredients may contain the allergen. This causes uncertainty about whether an ingredient generally considered safe (vinegar, for example) is the source of the allergen or if it is also in another ingredient (which might be a problem).
As food manufacturers review their products in light of FALCPA, some items that were considered gluten-free are being identified as containing wheat. In some cases these items are really gluten-free due to the processing of the food (distilling, for example).
For more information on FALCPA see the FDA’s Web site with advice, questions and answers at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/alrgqa.html or the FAQ from the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.
The full text of FALCPA is available online from the THOMAS database of the Library of Congress (see Title II).
“When Food is Poison: the History, Consequences, and Limitations of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004″ by Laura Derr is an excellent (but lengthly) article on FALCPA (published in the Food and drug law journal 61, issue 1 (2005): 65).
The FDA is required to post public notification when a food manufacturer applies for an exemption for their product from FALCPA labeling. You can check this online at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/falnoti.html.
Proposed Standards for Gluten Free Labeling
The FDA has released their proposed rules for voluntary gluten free labeling, based on a standard of 20 parts-per-million. They also have a web page of questions and answers on the proposed rule.
They are now inviting comments on an additional study on gluten-free labeling, see http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/E9-4766.htm.
The FDA is planning to conduct an experimental study about gluten-free labeling of food products. The Gluten-Free Labeling of Food Products Experimental Study will collect information from both consumers who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance and those who do not have either condition. The purpose of the study is to gauge perceptions of characteristics related to claims of “gluten-free” and allowed variants (e.g., “free of gluten,” “without gluten,” “no gluten”), in addition to other types of statements (e.g., “made in a gluten-free facility” or “not made in a facility that processes gluten-containing foods”) on the food label. The study will also assess consumer understanding of “gluten-free” claims on foods that are naturally free of gluten, and gauge consumer reaction to a product carrying a gluten claim concurrently with a statement about the amount of gluten the product contains.
Last modified on Sunday, 13-Dec-2009 17:43:57 MST