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For Immediate
Release:
May 30, 2001

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  Consumer Group Calls For Allergy-Labeling Legislation
“Food Manufacturers May Not Comply With Voluntary Labeling Guidelines”

WASHINGTON - The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) today called for Federal legislation to ensure that all food manufacturers comply with labeling and other measures to protect consumers from allergens in food.

     “Five years ago the Food and Drug Administration asked food manufacturers voluntarily to disclose the presence of food allergens and to deal with ‘cross-contamination’,” said Michael F. Jacobson, CSPI’s Executive Director. “Yet last year an FDA survey revealed that one-quarter of a sampling of foods contained undeclared allergens. It’s time for Congress to step in and pass the bill that Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) will introduce shortly. Without such a law, FDA cannot take action against products that contain accidental contaminants. The food industry’s promotion today of voluntary labeling is a tactic for preventing necessary legislation.”

     In June 1996, Fred R. Shank, then Director of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), wrote to the National Food Processors (NFPA) Association and more than 100 other food trade associations. He asked them to notify their members of the need to disclose on the package even minute amounts of allergens, including those in spices, flavorings, and colorings and “to take all steps necessary to eliminate cross contamination.” In December 1996, Dr. David A. Kessler, then FDA Commissioner, also wrote to the NFPA asking for its help in “addressing a major public health problem of undeclared allergens in food.”

     A 2000 survey by the FDA, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection found that in a sampling of 85 manufacturers of bakery products, candy, and ice cream in Minnesota and Wisconsin, one-quarter made products that were contaminated with peanut or egg ingredients that were not declared on the product labels.