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Congress approves allergen labeling bill.

The House by voice vote Tuesday cleared legislation already approved by the Senate that requires food labels to clearly identify eight ingredients commonly associated with food allergies. President Bush will sign the measure into law. The bill (S 741) requires the food industry to use the commonly accepted names of the eight most common allergens--milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts and soybeans--when labeling products.

The measure provides an appeals process under which an individual or company could petition Health and Human Services (HHS) Department to exempt a food ingredient from the labeling requirement. HHS must approve or deny the appeal within 180 days of receiving the appeal. The bill requires the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop and operate a system for collecting and publishing data on the prevalence of food allergies, the incidence of serious adverse events related to food allergies, and the treatment and prevention of food allergies.

The measure directs HHS to inspect food manufacturing, processing and packing facilities to ensure that those facilities are engaging in efforts to reduce the possibility of food-allergen contamination, and to ensure that food allergens are being appropriately labeled. It further directs HHS to develop guidelines for preparing allergen-free foods in food establishments (such as restaurants and bakeries) and to issue regulations to define and permit the use of the term "gluten-free" on the labeling of foods.

The measure requires HHS to report within 18 months of enactment on the extent to which foods are unintentionally contaminated with major food allergens during the manufacturing process, and to recommend manufacturing processes to reduce such contamination. The report is also to describe the types of advisory labels currently being used by food producers, the extent to which such labeling is used and the preferences of those likely to be affected by food allergens regarding labeling information.
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Title Annotation:labeling products
Publication:Food & Drink Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 26, 2004
Words:309
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