The Coronavirus pandemic caused many unprecedented decisions to be made on a variety of fronts. Most recently, in response to the availability of certain foods across the country, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released new guidance. This allows food producers to be more flexible when labeling their products. As a result, manufacturers and vending machine operators can make “minor formulation changes” to foods. This decision was made to lighten the stress of supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19.
What is the FDA’s Announcement?
The FDA’s announcement stated that an ingredient can be changed without having to update the label’s ingredient list. This is possible as long as it “does not cause any adverse health effect.” Examples of this can include food allergens, gluten, sulfites, or other foods that are known to cause sensitivities in some people. A rule that must be followed is that the ingredient that is omitted or substituted cannot be a major ingredient in the product and must only make up 2% of the food. In addition to this, characterizing ingredients may not be changed. This omission or substitution also cannot have an impact on the nutrition of the product.
Examples that the FDA provides can include the following:
- Green peppers may be left out of a pre-packaged vegetable quiche
- Substituting canola oil for sunflower oil is allowed since they contain similar fats and neither is a common allergen
- Unbleached flour can be substituted for bleached flour as long as the bleaching agent is in short supply
How Can This Result in Product Liability?
Manufacturers are liable for the products they put out into the world. If negligence occurs, leading a product to cause harm to another person, it can result in a lawsuit. A common product liability lawsuit that is seen in court is the failure to warn. This may be the case if a manufacturer does not provide a warning label for a product that could potentially harm someone if not used correctly. When dealing with food, this may be the case if an ingredient label does not warn a person of a potential ingredient they are allergic to. While the new FDA guidelines can make it easier for Americans to continue seeing products on the shelves of their supermarkets, there are warnings from consumer advocacy groups regarding the dangerous outcomes of food allergies.
The CEO of SnackSafely.com, Dave Bloom, spoke on the issue by saying, “If you have a food allergy, the substitution of ingredients can be extremely dangerous and can cause anaphylaxis. The fact that they (the FDA) say 2% or less of an ingredient is changed means nothing because even a little trace of an allergen can cause a reaction and send someone to the hospital.” He continued in saying, “There are 32 million Americans that have a food allergy – that’s one in 10 of us that are put at risk by this.”
The FDA did not say how long the relaxed guidelines would remain in effect moving forward. If you or someone you know was harmed as a result of negligence and wishes to pursue a product liability lawsuit, contact an experienced New York personal injury attorney for assistance.
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