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I-TEAM: New FDA food label requirement rule could be a recipe for disaster

(Source: WRDW)
(Source: WRDW)(WRDW)
Published: Jun. 10, 2020 at 7:52 PM EDT
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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

News 12 at 11 o'clock/NBC at 12

AUGUSTA, GA. (WRDW/WAGT) -- It's supposed to help grocery stores keep food on the shelves during the pandemic, but our I-TEAM is exposing some potential problems with the new government rule.

This rule: allows the FDA to relax some of its food label requirements.

And what does every recipe start with? Ingredients.

By law, companies have to list them on the label but a new rule allows them to make some changes now, and they don't have to tell you about them.

A release from the FDA states it's "temporary" but it allows "manufacturers to make minor formulation changes" or substitutions -- "without updating the ingredient list."

Makes sense if you or your kids don't have food allergies. But if you're Cindy Gordon --

"It actually causes anaphylactic shock, which actually shuts my breathing down.”

You really count on accurate food labels.

"So unless I have an EpiPen, which I should be carrying that I can't afford, it sends me to the emergency room, and there's a very good chance, depending on what they substituted with like sharpish that I can die before I get to the emergency room,” Gordon said.

Luckily for Cindy, shellfish is one of the Big 8. The FDA promises food which also includes milk, eggs, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans are exempt.

"But there's still some room for error here and there is concern,” Kim Beavers.

Kim Beavers is a familiar face at News 12, but she's also a registered dietitian at University Hospital.

“These food swaps can not be a major ingredient in a product. In fact., they can only be 2 percent or less by weight,” Beavers said.

So this isn't a free for all, but even a trace of some allergens could put some in the hospital.

And sure the Big 8 are the main ones, but the I-TEAM found 170 foods are known to cause a reaction in the U.S.

“Were you surprised that they did this?” Meredith Anderson, I-TEAM reporter said.

“Very surprised. And I also thought that it was very sneaky that they actually from my understanding did it on a Friday afternoon on a holiday weekend,” Gordon said.

The I-TEAM noticed that, too.

But now you can let the FDA know how you feel. This Docket has more than 2,600 complaints and counting. Change.org has petitions as well.

Kim also suggests sticking to unprocessed foods and brands you trust, but she says you can also call a company to verify a label.

"That's an extra step that you might not normally have to take but again during these times, I would take that step,” Beavers said.

32 million Americans -- or one in 10 -- has a food allergy, so this could affect a lot of people.

If you have concerns or if you support this, share your thoughts on this docket:

One of the Change.org petitions that Cindy signed has already made it's way to Washington D.C. You can find that

Copyright WRDW/WAGT 2020. All rights reserved.

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