This week has brought some very disheartening, frustrating, and honestly scary news for the food allergy community.
This past weekend, the FDA issued new guidance that loosens up the labeling requirements for non-top 8 food allergens due to COVID-19. This guidance came as a shock to everyone in the food allergy community – including Food Allergy Research & Education (or FARE). The new guidance does not effect rules with the top 8 allergens, but it does create problems for millions of food allergy families who are constantly searching for safe foods.
The FDA lists that the goal of the new guidance, “is to provide regulatory flexibility, where fitting, to help minimize the impact of supply chain disruptions associated with the current COVID-19 pandemic on product availability.” And while this makes sense on one-hand, it also means that families that rely on very clear and strong labeling laws are now at risk. The FDA guidance goes on to say, “For example, we are providing flexibility for manufacturers to use existing labels, without making otherwise required changes, when making minor formula adjustments due to unforeseen shortages or supply chain disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The FDA does it make it clear that the top 8 allergens (along with a handful of others – sesame, celery, and mustard to name a few), may not be substituted without clear labeling. It does not, however, include rules for dozens of other ingredients that can cause anaphylactic reactions in people with food allergies. Keeping the guidelines the way they were would cost the food companies a headache along with some money. But changing these guidelines like they did could cost someone with a food allergy their life.
How is it the entire country/world has entered and accepted this current pandemic and taken drastic measures to prevent the spread of it, but yet there is a pandemic, if you will, around food allergies… that has not received near the attention it should? This is a life or death situation daily, and for their entire lives, for these individuals… and now the audacity of the FDA to lessen the required labeling is sickening and appalling.– Katie Fraunholtz – fellow food allergy mom
All of this is on top of the stress and fear that many food allergy families are facing right now due to limited food supplies from COVID-19. Because grocery stores are selling out of “normal” items, many people are turning to allergy-friendly alternatives instead. This limits the availability of those allergy-friendly foods for those that NEED them. I know in our family, we have had to go to a handful of stores in one trip to find the allergy-friendly essentials we need to feed our daughter. Now with this, options could be even more limited (or non-existent) for those whose allergies are outside of the ingredients listed in the new FDA guidance.
Many organizations, food allergy families, and food allergy allies are looking for ways to stop this new guidance. FARE has asked that food allergy families join in the fight to ask the FDA to re-think these new guidelines. A simple way to do so is by filling out a short form at regulations.gov and putting your concerns in the “Comment” box. Be sure to include your name and hit “submit” when finished.
We need to send a strong message to the FDA, and by taking action today, you can be a voice for the 32 million Americans who depend on strong labeling laws to protect their health and safety.– Food Allergy Research & Education
I beg you to please take the time to fill this out! If there has ever been a time to stand up for those with food allergies, it’s now.