Millions of Americans rely on allergen warnings on food labels, but ensuring that these labels are accurate requires a painstaking behind-the-scenes process.
While public awareness of the hazards posed by foodborne allergens is on the rise, so is the prevalence of food allergies themselves. Some 15 million Americans — including 4% of adults and 8% of children — now have a food allergy, and this number is only rising. This is particularly true among the younger set: according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of American children with food allergies increased by nearly 50% between 1997 and 2011.
In response to this trend, Congress passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA), which requires producers to label foods that contain a “major food allergen,” including milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. While keeping the food supply chain free of allergens is easier said than done, the country’s food processors have taken even greater pains to develop and implement comprehensive food safety measures since the adoption of FALCPA, helping the millions of Americans living with a food allergy understand what is safe for them to eat and what is not.