Allergies in America after the FALCPA: Obstacles Still Facing Allergic Individuals
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CitationKara Mungovan, Allergies in America after the FALCPA: Obstacles Still Facing Allergic Individuals (May 2008).
AbstractAllergies affect over 12 million Americans; that number is increasing and children are disproportionately affected. Four years ago, Congress enacted the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004, mandating that all foods containing the eight most common allergens be clearly labeled, and requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to prepare a report on cross-contamination throughout the food industry and on the use of and consumer preferences regarding advisory labeling. The report showed that despite widespread use of allergen control policies, cross-contamination is rampant in food manufacturing facilities. The use of advisory labeling is inconsistent and communicates little valuable information. Consumers do, however, tend to take head of advisory labels and try to interpret different meanings from differently-worded messages, which indicates they are often misled. We need an industry standard, but we need to be careful not to encourage manufacturers to label all of their products, regardless of risk. I propose a system where manufactures could choose between several levels of risk. That way, they could be shielded from liability by using at least the lowest level, but they could use their discretion to apply higher risk warnings to truly dangerous products, thus better informing consumers of real risk levels. I also propose that in addressing restaurant regulation, we bear in mind the fact that the social and professional importance of restaurant dining to many people increases as they age. Even though restaurants are currently very dangerous, many teenagers and adults with allergies eat at them, and many experience serious reactions. I propose that we impose mandatory allergy training on restaurant staff, and that we direct restaurants to develop and articulate clear allergy policies, that they communicate openly and honestly to consumers. That way, consumers would know the level of risk they are taking on when they eat at particular restaurants. Further, allergic consumers and their dining partners could more easily choose safer places to eat, which hopefully would exert market pressure restaurants to develop more accommodating policies. I see both of these proposals as necessary in the short term, but hope that eventually the consumer demand for allergy-friendly policies in food manufacturing practices and in restaurants will grow strong enough that we will see the market provide more and more accommodations for people with allergies.
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