The COVID-19 pandemic caused many unprecedented decisions to be made. This is reflected in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s release of new guidance regarding food labeling. This new guidance allows food producers to have flexibility when labeling by letting “minor formulation changes” to be made on the food labels. The FDA made the decision to try and lighten the stress of supply chain distributions during this time.
What is the FDA’s Announcement?
The FDA stated that an ingredient in a food can be changed without the need to update it on the label’s ingredient list. While this is true, it can only be done if it “does not cause any adverse health effect.” This can include food allergens, gluten, sulfites, or other foods that are known to cause sensitivities. The FDA’s new guidance requires the following:
- 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:
- 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 are responsible for it. This means that if any harm is brought upon a consumer due to the manufacturer’s negligence, they can be held liable through product liability law as a result. This may be the case in the event of their failure to warn. These cases are seen if a manufacturer does not provide a warning label on a product that can hurt someone if it is not used correctly. In terms of food, this can happen when an ingredient that a person could be allergic to is not put on a label. When this happens and a person has an allergic reaction, a lawsuit may be possible.
Consumer advocacy groups are issuing warnings regarding the new guidance about how dangerous it can be to individuals with food allergies. 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 say how long these guidelines will be in effect. If you or someone you know was harmed due to negligence and wants to pursue a product liability lawsuit, contact an experienced Maryland personal injury attorney for assistance.
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