FDA Investigation Finds ‘Unlisted’ Ingredients in Food
As many as one-fourth of all food manufacturers do not list all of the ingredients contained in their products, posing a danger to individuals with food allergies, a new FDA investigation finds. The New York Times reports that an FDA examination of 85 companies "of all sizes" found that 25% did not list all of the raw ingredients, such as nuts or eggs, that were contained in their products on the product labels. In addition, only "slightly more than half" of the companies checked their products to ensure that all of the ingredients were "accurately reflected on the labels." The FDA currently requires companies to list all of a product's ingredients, but allow "trace amounts" of "natural" ingredients to be omitted. However, the investigation found that many unlisted ingredients were not intentionally added, but instead resulted from residue left on utensils or baking pans, making it "difficult" for manufacturers to know if or when an ingredient has entered a product. Each year, 30,000 people must go to the hospital for allergic reactions to food, and as many as 200 die.
The dangers posed by unlisted ingredients have prompted a number of lawmakers to draft legislation that would require companies to take greater steps to ensure the accuracy of labels. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) has introduced a bill that would require manufacturers to make efforts to prevent the "unintentional contamination of products." The measure also calls on food companies to list allergens by their "common English names," rather than by their formal scientific terminology. Meanwhile, a group of attorneys general from nine states petitioned the FDA last May to issue new regulations which, if enacted, would require manufacturers to warn consumers that their products might contain allergens, even if these ingredients have not been deliberately added to the product. However, changing FDA regulations "could take years," and manufacturers would have "ample opportunity to fight them," the Times reports. Instead, the FDA is focusing on "persuading" the industry to make "voluntary changes," and says that most of the companies are "willing to overhaul their manufacturing" (Winter, New York Times, 4/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.