FDA Announces Food Label Flexibility During COVID-19
For families with food allergies, reading labels is a lifestyle but doctors are warning a change to labeling guidelines could put some people at risk of an allergic reaction.
COVID-19 closed processing plants and affected farms, causing a strain on the food supply chain. In response,
the Food and Drug Administration threw them a lifeline, making labeling requirements more relaxed and allowing for some ingredient substitutes.
“When you eat a new food or a food you haven’t had in a long time, you can have a reaction,” said Pediatric Allergist and Immunologist Dr. Vivian Hernandez-Trujillo.
She warns the risk increases as schools get food items in bulk, so it’s important for families to have an action plan.
“We can’t predict when a reaction will happen. Reactions happen and unfortunately, accidents happen. So, be prepared 100% of the time, no matter what.”
You can cut down on chances of having an allergic reaction by following these recommendations:
• Check the FDA website frequently for updates, as no expiration date was given with the initial change announcement
The FDA says the goal in doing this is to provide regulatory flexibility, where appropriate, to help minimize the impact of supply chain disruptions on product availability associated with the current COVID-19 pandemic.
First, the FDA is providing flexibility for manufacturers to make minor formulation changes in certain circumstances without making conforming label changes, such as making a change to product ingredients, without updating the ingredient list on the packaged food when such a minor change is made. For purposes of this guidance, minor formulation changes should be consistent with the general factors listed below, as appropriate:
• 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.
The FDA is also providing temporary flexibility to the vending machine industry and will not object if covered operators do not meet vending machine labeling requirements to provide calorie information for foods sold in the vending machines at this time. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, vending machine operators may need to change business practices, and there may be temporary disruptions in the supply chain for foods sold in vending machines. Where possible, FDA encourages covered vending machine operators to continue to comply with the vending machine labeling requirements.