New FDA Guidance on Food Labeling: Can This Lead to Product Liability Cases?

New FDA Guidance on Food Labeling: Can This Lead to Product Liability Cases?

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been many unprecedented decisions made throughout the country. More recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released new guidance regarding food labeling. It allows food producers flexibility in labeling their products by making “minor formulation changes” on the labels. This decision came by the FDA in an effort to lighten the stress of supply chain distributions during this trying time. 

What is the FDA’s Announcement?

The new guidance issued by the FDA states that an ingredient can be changed in a food without being required to update it on the food’s ingredients list label. However, this is only allowed as long as it “does not cause any adverse health effect.” This may be due to food allergens, gluten, sulfites, or other foods known to cause sensitivities in a person. The FDA’s new guidance requires the following:

  • The ingredient that is omitted or substituted cannot be a major ingredient and must only make up 2% of the food 
  • Characterizing ingredients also cannot be changed 
  • The ingredient that is omitted or substituted cannot have an impact on the product’s nutrition.

Examples of ingredients that the FDA provides include:

  • 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 can be held legally responsible for the products they put out into the world in the event that negligence took place and it goes on to harm a consumer. This is done through product liability law. A common product liability case is the failure to warn. This happens when a manufacturer does not provide a warning label on a product that can cause harm if it is used improperly. When dealing with food, this can happen if an ingredient that a person can be allergic to is left off the ingredient list on a label. When this happens and a person has an allergic reaction, a lawsuit may be possible.

In response to the new FDA guidance, consumer advocacy groups are issuing warnings about how dangerous it can be to those with food allergies. SnackSafely.com CEO Dave Bloom said, “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, “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 these guidelines will be in effect. If you or someone you know was harmed due to negligence and wants to pursue a product liability lawsuit, contact an experienced Florida personal injury attorney for assistance.

Contact our Firm

To discuss your case with our experienced Panama City personal injury attorneys, contact Manuel & Thompson, P.A. today for your free consultation.

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