The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), which became operational in January 1, 2006, was approved by Congress to make sure that food labels identify common allergens in simple language.
The purpose of the statute is to make it easier for customers that are prone to food allergies or their caregivers to spot and avoid foods that contain common food allergens. FALCPA classifies eight food groups as key food allergens: fish, milk, peanuts, eggs, tree nuts, soy, crustacean shellfish and fish.
FALCPA requires food manufacturers to list ingredients which have one or more of the major food allergens in either of the two ways.
The first option requires food manufacturers to incorporate the food source in parentheses following the the common name. This happens in certain instances where the name of food source of the major allergen is not indicated somewhere else in the ingredient. Examples include “flour (wheat),” and “lecithin (soy)”.
The other option requires the manufacturer to position the word “contains” near or after the ingredient list. This word is then followed by a list indicating the name of the food source from which the main food allergen comes from. For example, you have probably seen a food label that reads, “includes milk, wheat and soy”.
These ingredients should be provided in the list if they are available in any amount, even in flavors, colors and spice blends, states the Food Allergy Research & Education. Moreover, manufacturers should list the particular nut (e.g., cashew, walnut or almond or seafood (e.g., salmon, tuna, lobster and shrimp) that is included.
FALCPA exempts raw agricultural products such as vegetables and fresh fruits whether in their natural state or in the form of highly-refined oil. Clinical studies have reported that food allergic individuals can safely consume highly refined oils since such oils contain very small proportions of allergic proteins. However, this is not always the case and many people with peanut allergy avoid peanut oil.
Manufacturers can also seek to have a product exempted from the new labeling requirement. FALCPA says that any individual can request the Secretary of Health and Human Services to grant an exemption whether via a notification or a petition process.
Consumers’ Advice on How to Avoid Allergic Foods
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) directs consumers to work with healthcare providers to discover what foods can trigger allergic reactions. Additionally, consumers who are allergic to major food allergens are must perform their own due diligence and read ingredient lists.