President Bush Signs Bill That Will Benefit Millions with Food
Food Allergen Labeling & Consumer Protection Act Becomes Law: Millions of Americans Will Be Able to Easily Identify Safe and Unsafe Foods
NEW YORK, Aug. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- The Food Allergy Initiative celebrates a major victory in its public policy campaign as President George W. Bush signed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (S. 741) into law last night. The primary mission of the Food Allergy Initiative (FAI) is to support research to find a cure for life-threatening food allergies by 2010. Until a cure is found, FAI is committed to keeping food allergic children healthy and alive by creating safer environments for them. The Food Allergy Initiative led the effort to insure that this bill was passed by Congress and signed by the President so that food-allergic consumers would be able to easily identify a product's ingredients, trust the accuracy of the ingredient statements, and stay healthy and alive.
The only way for someone with food allergies to keep from having a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction is to completely avoid foods that contain the allergens. Food-allergic consumers are forced to decipher labels for every food product they purchase, every time they shop -- a terrifying and dangerous process -- made even more difficult by the technical language used in ingredient statements.
Would you know that albumin refers to egg, caseinate to milk, textured vegetable protein to soy? "Natural flavors" could refer to peanuts, tree nuts, or any other food. A recent study at Mount Sinai School of Medicine demonstrated that after reading a series of labels only 7% of parents of children with milk allergy were able to correctly identify products that contained milk and 22% of parents of children with soy allergy were able to correctly identify products that contain soy.
The new law, effective January 1, 2006, will provide necessary information for school nurses, teachers, caregivers, and chefs who must help millions of food allergic students and restaurant patrons avoid the food allergens. Recent studies estimate that over 11 million Americans have a food allergy. Over six million are allergic to fish and shellfish alone. Over three million are allergic to peanuts and tree nuts and the number of children with peanut allergy has doubled in the past five years. Each year, over 250 Americans die due to the ingestion of allergenic foods, and 30,000 receive life-saving treatment in emergency rooms.
The bill requires food manufacturers to clearly state if a product contains any of the eight major food allergens responsible for over 90% of all allergic reactions; those allergens are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy. In addition, it requires that the Food and Drug Administration conduct inspections and issue a report within 18 months to ensure that the food manufacturers comply with practices to reduce or eliminate cross-contact of a food with any major food allergens that are not intentional ingredients of the food.
Todd J. Slotkin, Chairman of the Food Allergy Initiative and father of twins with life-threatening food allergies, says that, "Our government established the first line of defense in the prevention of deaths and/or serious illness from food allergic reactions. We thank Congressmen Lowey and Greenwood and Senators Kennedy, Gregg and Frist for the years of hard work and cooperative bipartisan effort that paved the way for this bill. Over eleven million Americans live in fear of eating the wrong food with every bite they take. This bill will enable them to trust that ingredient labels are accurate."
Sarah Gitlin, age thirteen and allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and fish, explains that she tries "very hard to eat only foods that are safe. If a food might contain anything I'm allergic to, I avoid it. But who would guess that a common popcorn brand would use the words "natural flavors" to mean peanuts? And who would guess that the words "vegetable protein" or "plant protein" would be food companies' code words for tree nuts? Recently, a lollipop manufacturer used the words 'natural flavors.' I assumed that it would be okay because the flavors, fruits and mints, didn't seem to be the type to contain nuts. By pure luck, I noticed that they also had a peanut butter flavored pop, and the "natural favors" were referring to peanuts. Thanks to the Food Allergy Initiative's hard work in ensuring the passage of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, I will not have to wonder whether every "natural flavors" is a death sentence."
The bill will also benefit the estimated 2 million Americans with celiac disease. The bill calls for the Food and Drug Administration to issue final regulations defining "gluten-free" and permitting the voluntary labeling of products as "gluten-free" no later than 2008. Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder that is triggered by eating the protein gluten, which is found in grains, including wheat, rye, and barley.
About the Food Allergy Initiative
The Food Allergy Initiative (FAI) is a New York-based, nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting research to find a cure for life- threatening food allergies. In addition to funding research and clinical activities to identify and treat those at risk, FAI supports public policy initiatives to create a safer environment for those afflicted, and educational programs to heighten awareness among health and child care workers, schools, camps, and members of the hospitality and food service industries about food allergies and the danger of anaphylaxis. For more information, please visit the FAI website at http://www.FoodAllergyInitiative.org or call 212-527-5835.
Source: Food Allergy Initiative