Food product manufacturers are starting to step up to the task of labeling allergens:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, July 18, 2005
STRUGGLING TO IDENTIFY ALLERGENIC FOODS
NEW ORLEANS-- New government regulations will soon require food companies to clearly label foods containing major allergens, but companies aren’t sure how they will accurately accomplish this, according to experts speaking here at the annual meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists. A major problem no one yet agrees on is how to measure the amount of allergen in a food that poses a risk.
“The law is a little ahead of the science,” said Kenneth J. Falci, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, about the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act.
The proposed regulations direct companies to label foods that contain eight major food allergens – milk, egg, fish, crustacean shellfish, peanuts, soybeans, tree nuts, and wheat. However, the FDA has not specified at what levels in food these ingredients pose a risk.
“The immune system is incredibly complex” so these levels are unclear, said Michael Moorman, director of food safety quality for Kellogg’s Company.
Food companies are also uncertain about whether potential allergens used to create other ingredients need or should be included on the labels.
“If companies do precautionary labeling for no reason, people won’t have anything to eat,” said Steve L. Taylor, Ph.D., food allergen expert with IFT and professor of food Science at University of Nebraska.
There is no question that consumers are intensely interested in food allergens. Kellogg’s reported that in the past decade consumers contacting the company to inquire about food allergens have risen from 6,000 in 2001 to more than 13,000 in 2004.
Moorman noted that companies need to be aware that the number of people concerned about allergies is larger than they may assume. While some studies have shown that fewer than 10 percent of Americans might have a food allergy , 29 percent of consumers check food labels for allergens. What’s more, 44 percent of families with a member sensitive to allergens have changed their buying habits as a result, and 60 percent are willing to pay more for allergen-free foods.
Some practices that consumers often favor to reduce the risk of introducing allergenic materials to foods often aren’t practical, said Moorman. For instance, consumers would like companies to produce allergenic on different production lines.
“This won’t happen,” he said, “because companies rarely produce enough volume on one line and can’t afford to let it sit idle.”
The IFT Annual Meeting + Food Expo®, running now through July 20, is the world’s single largest annual scientific meeting and technical exposition of its kind. Rated among the largest shows in America*, the meeting delivers comprehensive, cutting-edge research and opinion from food science-, technology-, marketing- and business-leaders.
Founded in 1939, and with world headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, USA, the Institute of Food Technologists is a not-for-profit international scientific society with 26,000 members working in food science, technology and related professions in industry, academia and government. As the society for food Science and technology, IFT brings sound Science to the public discussion of food issues. For more on IFT, see http://www.ift.org.
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Institute of Food Technologists
New Orleans, LA July 17, 2005
Contact: Jim Klapthor, Media Relations Manager
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