If you have food allergies beyond the most common ones, you may want to check this out. The FDA relaxed their food labeling laws to help avoid interruption in the supply chain throughout the remainder of the pandemic.

The FDA relaxed their food labeling laws to help avoid interruption in the supply chain throughout the remainder of the pandemic.

In the midst of food shortage fears, the FDA has taken a rather unusual step to help keep shelves stocked by relaxing the labeling laws.

On the surface, it may seem like a logical move designed to “help support the food supply chain and meet consumer demand during the pandemic.”

However, for those with severe allergies to uncommon foods it’s a dangerous idea that could even prove fatal in some cases.

You may also like: 25 Foods to Help You Fight Seasonal Allergies

FDA’s relaxed requirements allows “minor formulation changes”

The below criteria for the new relaxed requirements comes directly from the FDA’s announcement:

Safety: the ingredient being substituted for the labeled ingredient does not cause any adverse health effect (including food allergens, gluten, sulfites, or other foods known to cause sensitivities in some people, for example, glutamates);   

Quantity: generally present at 2 percent or less by weight of the finished food;

Prominence: the ingredient being omitted or substituted for the labeled ingredient is not a major ingredient in the product;

Characterizing Ingredient: the ingredient being omitted or substituted for the labeled ingredient is not a characterizing ingredient; for example, omitting raisins, a characterizing ingredient in raisin bread; 

Claims: an omission or substitution of the ingredient does not affect any voluntary nutrient content or health claims on the label;  and

Nutrition/Function: an omission or substitution of the labeled ingredient does not have a significant impact on the finished product, including nutritional differences or functionality. 

Basically ,if a brand needs to make a swap and said swap makes up less than 2% of the overall product (and isn’t one of the known allergens), they don’t have to change the label.

Say Joe’s Ultimate Fruit Smoothie Blend (fictional brand, as far as I know) typically includes avocado on their list of ingredients, but it makes up less than 2% of the overall ingredients. Joe can’t get the avocados, so he uses banana instead. Under the new guidelines, Joe doesn’t have to change the ingredient label.

Now, say you’re deathly allergic to bananas, to the point where even an iota of one can cause a reaction. Unfortunately, based on the relaxed guidelines, you have no way of knowing that bananas are taking the place of avocado in the smoothie mix.

Accurate ingredients lists save lives

I learned about the new relaxed requirements not from browsing the Top News Stories of the day, but from a Twitter post that popped up on my feed by writer Jay Edidin (@NotLasers).

Edidin’s F-bomb reaction to the news caught my attention, so I clicked to see what had him so riled up. Edidin went on to explain that he’s severely allergic to ingredients that aren’t on the top 8 list.

That’s the thing. While the “Top 8” are, obviously, the most common allergens, people can be allergic to literally anything. Accurate ingredient labels save lives. Literally.

Without them, buying fresh fruit and vegetables is literally the only way to be 99% sure that your lunch isn’t going to kill you. I say 99% because, as we’ve seen last year, even fresh lettuce can be deadly if it’s tainted.

So, why not just buy fresh if you’re so worried?

If you’re thinking, “Well, then, why not just buy fresh fruit and vegetables if you’re so worried,” consider the following:

First, we’re in the middle of a massive economic crisis. Fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t cheap on a good day. The vast majority of the country (78%) lives paycheck to paycheck. With millions of paychecks no longer coming in, people don’t exactly have the money to buy only fresh fruits and veggies.

Second, while produce should make up a good chunk of your diet, you do need other things (despite what certain fad diets would have you believe).

Bottom line, although the intentions are good, the outcome has the potential to be catastrophic for people with uncommon allergies.

What do you think? Is it a good move designed to help prevent food supply chain disruptions, a dangerous move, or a little bit of both?