April 26, 2018

FSIS Increases Label Monitoring for Food Allergies

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued a new directive on procedures for verifying that food manufacturers are accurately labeling foods for the eight most common food allergens. The directive is for inspection program personnel.

PeanutsThe allergens are wheat, shellfish, eggs, fish, peanuts, milk, tree nuts, and soy. They account for 90% of allergic reactions among the American public. Other ingredients of concern include sulfites, lactose, FD&C Yellow #5, gluten, and MSG.

Monthly verification will begin April 12, 2014. This process will include record reviews, observation of food production, and response to specific questions. Inspection Program Personnel (IPP) will ask whether an establishment has developed and implemented control measures, discuss whether the establishment produces products that contain the “Big 8” food allergens, and inform management that IPP will verify that the labels match its product formulations.

Most food recalls in this country are for undeclared allergens; in fact, since 2008 there has been a “sustained increase” in the number of recalls of USDA regulated products for undeclared allergens. People with allergies to foods can have serious reactions, including anaphylactic shock, if they eat these foods. Accurate labels are the only way they can tell if a food they are eating is safe or not.

The directive states, “when an establishment ships product into commerce with an undeclared allergen, its food safety system has failed.” Facilities must have preventive measures in place to address undeclared allergens.

Facilities may be inspected and certifications conducted more often if a recall has been issued from that facility, if consumer complaints are linked to the establishment, or if it has a history of sanitation noncompliance records. Product formulation changes and new products will also trigger more inspections.

Comments

  1. Too bad food companies don’t have to label for corn allergens. Of course, since corn is dumped into almost the entire food supply, especially as corn derived additives, there would be constant recalls for lack of truthful labels. Sulfites are not adequately labeled, either. I’m allergic to corn and sulfites, so I have a serious problem finding foods that are safe for me. And as a Celiac, I sometimes run into gluten-free foods that contain too much gluten. Food companies are in the business to make money, not worry about our safety. Eating can be hazardous to our health!

    • Linda Larsen says:

      I agree. I wish they would also include sesame as an allergen. MSG is another one – it can hide under many different names on food labels.

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