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  • Emily

Why the FDA’s New Regulations Affect More Than Those With Food Allergies

On Friday, May 22, the FDA announced that they would be “temporarily” changing labeling laws to help food manufacturers during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

And by changing, they mean that food manufacturers no longer have to change labels to reflect ingredient changes.

What does that mean for us?

When I first saw this, I didn’t know what to do. It’s very alarming when the company that’s supposed to keep food safe for food allergic people makes food a total guessing game. I had food in my pantry that would last me a while, but what happens when that runs out? How do I know what’s safe and what’s not safe?

Now, for those of you that haven’t heard of this or don’t completely understand this, let me explain what this is. 

Basically the FDA is making it so that food manufacturers can substitute ingredients without reflecting that change on ingredients labels.

Thankfully, there are a couple rules to this.

Ingredients that are being substituted can NOT be a top 8 allergen (peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, egg, milk, soy, shellfish or fish), glutamates, sulfites, gluten, etc. The FDA says that food manufacturers cannot substitute anything that can cause a harmful health effect. This is alarming because any food can cause a harmful health effect, and the fact that the FDA only acknowledges the big allergens is concerning on so many levels. 

They also say that you can only substitute for an ingredient that makes up a total of less than 2% of the total product. Again, the FDA needs to acknowledge that even microscopic amounts of an allergen can cause someone to go into life-threatening anaphylactic shock.

You may be thinking: “I don’t have any food allergies, why should I even care?”

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock since 2020 started, you probably know about Coronavirus. You have also, at some point, gone into quarantine and self isolation.We know that quarantining and social distancing probably isn’t going to cure Corona, but the point of quarantining was to flatten the curve. Again, the whole point of flattening the curve was to not overfill hospitals.

Now, take into consideration what happens when someone goes into anaphylactic shock from eating something that contains their allergen; they go to the hospital. If we have a spike in people going to the hospital, hospitals will fill up much quicker. 

Not to mention, going to the hospital means exposing more people to Coronavirus, who will expose more people, who will expose people… you get the point. This will make the COVID-19 pandemic last longer, and that is not what anyone wants.

Now, what can you and I do to change this? And for us food allergic people, how do we keep safe?

For starters, FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) has been on the case. They have had several meetings with the FDA, and they are currently asking the FDA to announce any ingredient changes, by using websites, social media, stickers, or any other option they find useful. So far, the FDA hasn't responded to this recommendation. You can read more about what FARE is doing here

For food allergic people, the food allergy app Spokin Inc. has been emailing companies to see if they will not adhere to this new labeling law (aka they will continue to practice good labeling to keep their customers safe). They have compiled a list of safe companies that they will continue to update, and you can view that here. These include food allergy brands such as Hungry Harry’s and Safe + Fair, along with bigger companies such as Kraft. You can also follow along with them on Instagram (@spokininc). If you don’t see a specific brand on that list, email the brand!

Regardless of if you have a food allergy or not, we can all take action to get this new regulation revoked. You can learn about the law here, sign the petition here, and leave a comment here. I’ve done all these things, and I encourage you to do them, too. If more people help, we can reach our goal faster and save more lives. 

Please stay safe and healthy friends. We will all get through this. 

Have you heard about the new FDA laws? What’s your opinion on it? Leave a comment below!

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