FDA Guidance Sparks Major Concerns, Exacerbates Fears for 32 Million Americans Amid Pandemic
FARE calls on FDA urging prioritization of food allergies, requests collaboration across food allergy community, industry and FDA on strategy moving forward
McLean, Va. (May 27, 2020) – Today, FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), sent a letter to Dr. Susan Mayne, Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sharing concerns on behalf of the food allergy community over the agency’s guidance, “Temporary Policy Regarding Certain Food Labeling Requirements During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency: Minor Formulation Changes and Vending Machines.”
The guidance, while intended to provide temporary flexibility to the food industry to help support the food supply chain and meet consumer demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, raises major anxieties for the food allergy community. Chief among concerns expressed in FARE’s letter is that the FDA’s guidance casts doubt on whether those with food allergies can safely and confidently purchase food if labels will not provide necessary information regarding ingredients.
“There are 32 million Americans living with potentially life-threatening food allergies and the challenges they face each day have been made worse during the pandemic with many media outlets continuously highlighting issues accessing safe, trusted and allergen-free food products,” said Lisa Gable, chief executive officer of FARE. “We understand that COVID-19 has been an obstacle for food manufacturers, too, through unanticipated shortages and supply chain disruptions to ensure products are available but the food allergy community relies on transparency and it is our hope that we can work together with FDA to find a solution that benefits everyone and ensures the safety of the food supply for those whose lives depend on knowing exactly what is in the products they are buying.”
To address the concerns shared in the letter, FARE asked the FDA to require food manufacturers to inform consumers of any changes to their products and product ingredients or formulations digitally including through their website, social media channels, SmartLabel®, and alerts on online retail shopping website (i.e. Amazon, Walmart, etc.) as well as using labeling alternatives such as stickers, as mentioned on page 6 of the FDA’s guidance. By disclosing the changes and sharing them broadly, food manufacturers and the FDA will regain the trust of the food allergy community.
Following the announcement, FARE utilized its social media channels to engage directly with members of the food allergy community, resulting in hundreds of comments over the holiday weekend. These comments are reflected in the letter sent to the FDA.
FARE welcomes the opportunity to work with the FDA and food manufacturers on a solution the benefits everyone and encourages members of the food allergy community to provide their direct feedback to the agency through the FDA website.
FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) is the nation’s leading non-profit engaged in food allergy advocacy as well as the largest private funder of food allergy research. FARE’s innovative education, advocacy and research initiatives transform the future of food allergy through new and improved treatments and prevention strategies, effective policies and legislation, and novel approaches to managing the disease. To learn more, visit: foodallergy.org.