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Science panel urges rewrite of food allergy warning labels

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Rickey Cameron
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View photos This Nov. 30, 2016, photo shows part of a food label that states the product "may contain traces of peanut and other tree nuts" as photographed in Washington.

The report from the prestigious National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine said it's time for regulators and the food industry to clear consumer confusion with labels that better reflect the level of risk.

Today's precautionary labels about accidental contamination are voluntary, meaning there's no way to know if foods that don't bear them should — or if wording such as "may contain traces" signals a bigger threat than other warnings.

Today, "there's not any real way for allergic consumers to evaluate risk," said National Academies committee member Stephen Taylor, a University of Nebraska food scientist.

He said research raises concern that consumers might simply ignore the precautions, "essentially a form of playing Russian roulette with your food."

Food allergies are common and sometimes can trigger reactions severe enough to kill.

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