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Safety Shouldn’t Stop at State Lines

August 26, 2019

By: Dr. Betsy Booren, GMA Senior Vice President, Regulatory and Technical Affairs

If an ingredient in the food we eat or the products we use poses an issue to consumers, it is an issue everywhere — not just in one state. That’s why the FDA has always been charged with allergen labeling. But the state of Illinois is threatening to upend that process.

A recently enacted law in Illinois requires that manufacturers label sesame in food products. The law is not the issue — if there is good reason to include sesame on product labels, then our industry absolutely will. The issue is that ad hoc state and local requirements create inconsistency and confusion for consumers, ultimately undermining their trust.

Label requirements are important. We have seen “contains nuts” on labels for more than 10 years. If you or your child has a nut allergy, that’s a critical warning. Imagine if that critical warning were present in one state, but not in another. It could be literally life-threatening.

That’s an extreme example, particularly since CPG companies want to be transparent and helpful to consumers, and knowing the dangers of nut allergies, they would proactively label. But the point stands, no matter the ingredient — nuts, sesame or fill-in-the-blank —we need a reliable, uniform process that enhances trust with consumers.

GMA supports the creation of uniform national standards and the regulatory primacy held by long-standing federal authorities, like FDA. Food allergies are a serious public health issue and consumers deserve a uniform framework that communicates clear and reliable information consistently across the country.

When it comes to consumer health, there is no state that should be safer than another. Patchwork policies do not align with that fundamental principle. The role of the FDA in determining allergens is important to consumers, and we encourage them to engage with the state of Illinois on sesame — just as we would encourage them to engage with any state considering similar action.


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