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New food labeling requirements could lead to more restrictive diets.

A new study was funded by the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) found that an unintended result of new food labeling requirements may be that trace amounts of some heretofore unlisted food allergens will be posted, causing more diet restriction than ever before. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act is intended to make life easier and simpler for people who suffer food allergies, some of which can be fatal. For these individuals, accurately reading a label can be a matter of life and death. It will go into effect January 2006.

The impending label changes likely will reduce consumers' need to contact food manufacturers and generally make life simpler for the 11 million Americans who suffer from food allergies, according to the studies author, Anne Munoz-Furlong.

In a presentation made at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Munoz-Furlong also said the new law will require manufacturers to use plain, common language on the presence of any of the eight major food allergens--milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy. Companies will also be required to indicate any major food allergens used in spices, flavorings, additives and colorings, categories that had previously been exempt.

The study authors surveyed 489 individuals who had participated in conferences sponsored by the FAAN about their experiences with food labels. Almost all (99 percent) of respondents said that they "always/frequently" read food labels before purchasing. The majority (86 percent) said their brand choice was "very much influenced" by the labeling. The same percentage said they had contacted manufacturers for more information about ingredients. Of those surveyed, 16 percent reported having an allergic reaction because they misunderstood label terms, while 22 percent said they had had a reaction because allergens were not included on the label.

One likely downside to the new law will be further narrowing of already restricted diets for some people. "If the company follows the law exactly, we may have ingredients in trace amounts that may unnecessarily limit the diet," Munoz-Furlong said. "We need more studies on the threshold levels as science has not caught up with labeling at this point.
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Comment:New food labeling requirements could lead to more restrictive diets.
Publication:Food & Drink Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 2, 2005
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