J. Mark Huffman

Allergen Proposal Reviewed

A Senate committee has given its initial review to legislation requiring new food labels warning of potential food allergen risks. The legislation, S. 741, has bi-partisan support and is co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA). It's a more industry-friendly version of legislation advanced by Democrats that would impose tighter labeling requirements.

The compromise bill would require specific labeling for all food products containing milk, eggs, crustacean shellfish, fish, wheat, tree nuts, peanuts or soybeans. The Senate bill allows two options for labeling allergenic ingredients, including the "contains" statement for the allergen, such as "contains peanuts," on the food label or adding the plain English name of the allergen in parentheses following the name of the actual ingredient in the ingredients statement, such as "casein (milk)."

Assuming the measure clears both the House and Senate and is signed by the President, the new allergen labeling requirements would go into effect Jan. 1, 2006. That's the same date as the trans fat content labeling rules that were announced by FDA earlier this year. Since all labels will have to be changed to include trans fat labeling, companies may want to wait to also include new allergen labeling requirements, should this legislation become law. The legislation is a mixed victory for dairy processors and other food industry groups, who had fought to make the food allergen label requirements voluntary.


Congress has extended the reauthorization of the National School Lunch Program, putting off Congressional debate on possible changes to the program until next year. But milk producers and processors say the debate over milk's place in the diet of school children will apparently continue unabated. House Democrats have backed a bill (H.R. 3416) that would allow soy beverages to be a substitute for milk in the program.


Acting on a request from the Milk Industry Foundation (MIF), FDA will accept public comments until Jan. 26, regarding the National Yogurt Association's petition to modernize the yogurt standards of identity. MIF requested the extension to give the industry more time to formulate consensus on specific changes, including the provisions about heat treatment after culturing, that have been requested by NYA. Members of the MIF Yogurt Task Force (made up of MIF members that manufacture yogurt products) continue to hold conference calls to work through various details of NYA's petition. For more information, MIF members can contact the IDFA regulatory group at 202/737-4332.