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Harkin urges USDA to require improved food labeling for allergens.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is urging USDA to require that food labels inform consumers of any major allergens in meat and poultry products, an action that would be similar to an FDA requirement that is scheduled to go into effect by January 2006. "There are approximately 4 million people in the United States that suffer from food allergies, and for some it can be a matter of life or death," Harkin said as he called for USDA to require that such information be made available.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, Harkin notes that under a federal law signed by President Bush last August, food manufacturers regulated by FDA will be required to list on the label major allergens in foods they produce. That law requires that packaged foods, spices, flavors and colorings regulated by FDA disclose in plain English the presence of major allergens (e.g., "wheat" rather than "semolina" and "milk" rather than "whey").

USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service currently permits voluntary labeling using the two formats required for FDA-regulated foods and, according to Harkin, USDA has the authority to mandate major allergen labeling to alleviate the risk to public health. "Having consistent labeling regulations for allergens at both USDA and FDA will promote understanding and minimize confusion among consumers," Harkin says. Requiring major allergen labeling also will help meat and poultry processors take appropriate steps and provide much-needed guidance to eliminate undeclared major allergens in their products as they increase their production of marinated and value-added meat and poultry products for the market, he concludes.
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Title Annotation:United States Diary Association
Comment:Harkin urges USDA to require improved food labeling for allergens.(United States Diary Association)
Publication:Food & Drink Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 13, 2005
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