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NEWS ADMIN

Mahamad Rodzi Abdul Ghani

DATE

01/06/2001

NEWS PROVIDER

Mahamad Rodzi Abdul Ghani

NEWS SOURCE

NULL

CATEGORY

HEADLINE

Food industry creates allergy-aware labeling stand
Food industry creates allergy-aware labeling standardWASHINGTON, 5/31/2001 (The Associated Press) - Food labels will use moreeasily understood terms for ingredients that can cause allergic reactions,such as ``milk'' for ``casein'' and ``eggs'' for ``albumen,'' under newindustry guidelines intended to help consumers avoid products that canmake them sick.Labels also would disclose the sources of flavorings that could beallergy-inducing, such as butter or peanuts.The guidelines ``will make life safer for individuals with food allergiesand their families,'' said Anne Munoz-Furlong, founder of the Food Allergyand Anaphylaxis Network, an advocacy group that receives some industryfunding. ``It will cut down on phone calls to companies about ingredientinformation, saving the companies some money.''Putting common terms on food labels will especially help children, shesaid.The standards being issued Thursday by industry trade groups alsodiscourage food makers from indiscriminate use of a warning label such as``May contain peanuts.'' Some companies are routinely using such labels toprotect themselves against lawsuits, Munoz-Furlong said.Under the guidelines, such labels should be used ``judiciously'' and onlywhen manufacturers can't avoid the possibility of allergens in theirproducts.Some 7 million Americans who suffer from food allergies rely on ingredientlabels to tell which processed foods are safe for them to consume. Someallergic reactions, particularly to peanuts, can be fatal, claiming anestimated 150 lives a year.The Food and Drug Administration welcomed the industry guidelines,releasing a letter to the industry Wednesday that called them a``significant step forward'' and a ``major health benefit to the foodallergy sensitive consumer.''FDA has expressed increased concern about food allergies in recent yearsbut not has proposed labeling rules.Because the trade groups can't enforce the standards, there is no penaltyfor companies that don't follow them.``Politically, these recommendations are designed to undercut legislationor regulations,'' said Michael Jacobson, director of the Center forScience in the Public Interest, an advocacy group.But food makers will be under pressure from consumers to follow theguidelines, said Tim Willard, a spokesman for the National Food ProcessorsAssociation. ``If they find clear label information on certain productsand not on others, they are going to buy the products they like.Some companies, including cereal makers, already have been putting speciallabels on products.Kellogg's new Atlantis cereal bears a special label which says, in capitalletters: ``Contains wheat and milk ingredients. Corn used in this productcontains traces of soybeans.''The new guidelines apply to eight food groups that are responsible formost allergic reactions: Crustaceans such as crab and lobster, eggs, fish,milk, peanuts, soy, tree nuts such as almonds and walnuts, and wheat.Technical terms for ingredients such as casein won't disappear fromlabels. But packages will put the common terms in a special label, asKellogg's does, or add them to the ingredient list.Janet Leydorf of Gambrills, Md., welcomed the guideline on disclosure offlavoring sources.Her 4-year-old daughter, who is allergic to milk and peanuts, developedhives after eating a birthday party treat that was covering in icing. Aflavoring in the icing was made from milk, Leydorf discovered aftercalling the manufacturer.``It's a lot easier to prevent this problem (an allergic reaction) than todeal with it after it occurs,'' she said.Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network: http://www.foodallergy.orgNational Food Processors Association: http://www.nfpa-food.orgCenter for Science in the Public Interest: http://www.cspinet.org