Consumer groups are criticizing the FDA over its decision to relax some labeling regulations during the coronavirus pandemic, saying they could lead to problems among consumers sensitive to allergens.
The FDA in late May announced that it would suspend enforcement of certain regulations to accommodate food processors who are struggling with logistical issues during the pandemic. Among these were ingredient changes, which can now be made without changing the product’s ingredient list as long as the new ingredient is no more than 2% by weight of the finished product.
That change specifically does not apply to known food allergens, nor to other substances, such as gluten or sulfites, that cause adverse reactions in some consumers. But some consumer groups are concerned about certain ingredients that cause allergic reactions, even though they’re not on the list of eight officially recognized allergens, such as sesame, buckwheat or celery. They say the new FDA rules might allow such ingredients into food with no way for allergic consumers to know about it.
“All I do is teach my child how to read food labels and how to be careful, and now the government is saying that might not work and he might have a deadly reaction?” a mother of a boy with food allergies told Consumer Reports.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, and Food Allergy Research & Education have written to the FDA asking for more transparency on food labels under the new rules.