2015 has not been a good year for food safety for 15 million Americans. While recalls for salmonella and listeria, the most common pathogens related to food recalls are down, recalls for undeclared food allergens have broken a record in 2015. Sydney Lupkin, reporter for VICE News/MedPage Today released an article on Oct. 30, 2015 titled “Food Allergen-Related Recalls Are on the Rise.”
According to the CDC, 90% of serious allergic reactions are due to eight allergens: eggs, crustacean shellfish, fish, milk, peanuts, soy, tree nuts, and wheat. And thanks to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004, which was enacted in 2006, these ingredients are required to be listed on labels under their common names. “Milk” must appear at least once either in the ingredients list or in a “contains” label, rather than “casein” or “sodium caseinate” or “whey,” which also indicate milk proteins.
As reported in the article, there were 47 listeria, 67 salmonella and 150 undeclared food allergen recalls as of Oct. 28, 2015. Food recall data became publicly available in 2009. The leading organization focused on food allergies is FARE, Food Allergy Research and Education. FARE estimates that there is a person going to the ER every 3 minutes due to a food allergy reactions.
Congress is currently working on passing a bill that will redefine what has to be declared on food labels. The impetus of the bill has been the lobbying by major food manufacturers, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the chemical companies that make the pesticides used on GMO crops to prevent states and localities from requiring food labeling to declare GMO content. Some of these companies are revealed by InspirationGreen.com.
The FDA is increasingly focused on reporting food allergens. Food businesses are becoming more vigilant about undeclared allergen contents. Foreign citizens and governments are focused on GMO content as another major health risk source. The bottom line is that people everywhere have a right to know the contents of the foods they eat. Money should not be able to buy laws that keep consumers in the dark. We have the right to know what we are eating, drinking and breathing. There are strict laws on declaring food allergens, which need to be extended to include GMO content.
The refusal to identify GMO content has serious health repercussions in the US. The FDA has increased the allowable amount of glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup pesticide, in the past two years, e.g. as much as 30 times on potatoes. Glyphosate has been classified as “probably carcinogenic” by the World Health Organization. US companies selling products with GMO content to foreign markets are already relabeling these products or reformulating them to go into these markets. Restrictions on GMO products in 60 countries will limit where US grains can be sold and reduce the US export trade. The American Sustainable Business Council provides data to support GMO labeling as good business.
Readers can influence the laws on allergen and GMO food labeling content by writing or calling their members of Congress. Senator Sherrod Brown, Senator Rob Portman and our Representatives need encouragement to support GMO labeling. All of the 16 representatives in Ohio need to be contacted. The representatives local to Columbus are Rep. Steve Stivers, Rep. Pat Tiberi, and Rep. Joyce Beatty. If your representative is not from central Ohio, there is contact information on each representative and senator in the US.
While scientists, members of the medical profession, and government agencies wonder why food allergies and cancer are increasing, the people in the US need to follow the example of the people in Europe and the Far East to demand that they are accurately informed of allergen and GMO content. Our lives are at stake in knowing what we are consuming, and we need to make this a local, state and national issue.