The COVID-19 pandemic has caused food shortages all over the country. In response to this, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released new guidance on food labeling. This allows food producers to have flexibility when labeling the products. This is done by letting “minor formulation changes” be made to foods. This decision was made in order to take some stress away from supply chain disruptions during this time.
What is the FDA’s Announcement?
The FDA’s new guidance states that food ingredients can be changed without updating the ingredient list on the label. This is possible as long as it “does not cause any adverse health effect.” Examples of ingredients that do this can include food allergens, gluten, sulfites, or others that are known to cause sensitivities in some people. The following are rules that must be followed:
- The ingredient that is omitted or substituted cannot be a major ingredient and must only make up 2% of the food
- Characterizing ingredients also cannot be changed
- The ingredient that is omitted or substituted cannot have an impact on the product’s nutrition.
Examples of ingredients that the FDA provides include the following:
- Green peppers may be left out of a pre-packaged vegetable quiche
- Substituting canola oil for sunflower oil is allowed since they contain similar fats and neither is a common allergen
- Unbleached flour can be substituted for bleached flour as long as the bleaching agent is in short supply
How Can This Result in Product Liability?
When a manufacturer puts a product out into the world, they can be responsible through product liability law if it causes injury to a consumer. This may happen if they were negligent and failed to provide a warning label that indicates the product can cause harm if used improperly. In the instance of food, this can happen if a label does not include an ingredient that a consumer can have an allergic reaction to. Consumer advocacy groups are issuing warnings in response to the new FDA guidelines regarding the dangers it can cause to those with food allergies.
Speaking on the matter, SnackSafely.com CEO Dave Bloom said, “If you have a food allergy, the substitution of ingredients can be extremely dangerous and can cause anaphylaxis. The fact that they (the FDA) say 2% or less of an ingredient is changed means nothing because even a little trace of an allergen can cause a reaction and send someone to the hospital.” He continued, “There are 32 million Americans that have a food allergy – that’s one in 10 of us that are put at risk by this.”
The FDA did not state how long these relaxed guidelines would be in place. If you or someone you know was harmed as a result of negligence and wishes to pursue a product liability lawsuit, contact an experienced New Jersey personal injury attorney for assistance.
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