Newsline: Washington Watch
Allergen Proposal ReviewedA 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.