Product Liability Law: The FDA Releases New Guidelines on Food Labeling

close up of food shelves in supermarket aisle
June 1, 2020

In response to certain food shortages during the Coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released new guidance regarding labeling. This allows food producers a certain flexibility when labeling the products by letting them make “minor formulation changes” to foods. This decision was made to relieve the stress of supply chain disruptions during this trying time.

What is the FDA’s Announcement?

The new guidelines issued by the FDA states that an ingredient within a food can be changed without updating the ingredient list on the label, as long as it “does not cause any adverse health effect.” Examples can include food allergens, gluten, sulfites, or other foods that are known to cause sensitivities in some people. The rules that come with these guidelines require 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 the following:

  • 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 are legally held responsible for the products they produce. This is done through product liability law. A common lawsuit that is seen is due to the failure to warn. This happens if a manufacturer does not put a warning label on a product that can cause harm if used improperly. When dealing with food, this can be the case if a label does not designate an ingredient that someone can have an allergic reaction to. In response to the new FDA guidelines, consumer advocacy groups are issuing warnings about how dangerous this can be to those with food allergies.

Speaking of the issue, 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.”

How long the relaxed guidelines will be in effect was not released by the FDA. If you or someone you know was harmed as a result of negligence and wishes to pursue a product liability lawsuit, contact an experienced Pennsylvania personal injury attorney for assistance.

Contact Our Product Liability Law Firm

If you or a loved one has been injured by a defective product in Pennsylvania, it’s important that you contact an experienced Philadelphia product liability attorney to help you with your case and to make sure that you are not taken advantage of. Contact Spear Greenfield to get the right attorney in your corner.