FDA relaxes food labeling regulations for pandemic

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/05/25/fda-relaxes-food-labeling-regu.html


Key takeaway: buy as little processed, packaged crap as possible and cook meals from scratch. Capitalism is trying to kill you.


This is a disaster for people with food allergies.

You would think common sense would insist on continuing assurances of health and safety, but in the name of capitalism apparently the lives of people can always be thrown out.


Accuracy of sheep meat, tuna is a problem


What could possibly go wrong? :roll_eyes:


I doubt that there’s any real pandemic reason, just it’s at the top of the wish list of things to remove.


It is worth reading the link:

Their examples are that you can switch types of oil (sunflower -> canola) or used unbleached flour instead of bleached.


For those who haven’t clicked through, they do say:

For purposes of this guidance, minor formulation changes should be consistent with the general factors listed below, as appropriate:

  • Safety: the ingredient being substituted for the labeled ingredient does not cause any adverse health effect (including food allergens, gluten, sulfites, or other foods known to cause sensitivities in some people, for example, glutamates);
  • Quantity : generally present at 2 percent or less by weight of the finished food;
  • Prominence: the ingredient being omitted or substituted for the labeled ingredient is not a major ingredient in the product;
  • Characterizing Ingredient: the ingredient being omitted or substituted for the labeled ingredient is not a characterizing ingredient; for example, omitting raisins, a characterizing ingredient in raisin bread;
  • Claims: an omission or substitution of the ingredient does not affect any voluntary nutrient content or health claims on the label; and
  • Nutrition/Function: an omission or substitution of the labeled ingredient does not have a significant impact on the finished product, including nutritional differences or functionality.

Still, I wouldn’t necessarily trust the safety part of that in terms of allergies, because 1) a person could be allergic to something that isn’t one of the major officially-recognized allergens, and 2) if you’ve ever worked on a job, you know that workers (humans) make mistakes all the time. I’m with @Wally, above; i.e., always best to cook from scratch if you need to be sure.

I think they should have required something like the addition of a simple sticker on the label that would say, e.g., The ingredients in this food are not as stated. Then people could at least have some warning, even if they won’t actually know what substitution has been made. But I didn’t see anything like that in my perusal of the linked info.

ETA: scooped by @knappa! I owe you a coke :slight_smile:


I read the link. I already read the analysis from SnackSafely and a couple other websites reporting on it. As an example of the dangers: the FDA instructions are dependent on its classification of allergens, and highly refined peanut oil is not classified as an allergen and could now be substituted for other oils even though peanut oil has produced anaphylactic reactions (albeit fewer than peanut proteins).


The tweets I posted are from someone who has a Life Threatening Food Allergy (LTFA) to sunflower oil. How, again, is this harmless to them?

Personally, I have bad reactions (though not necessarily anaphylaxis/LTFA) of apples. Guess what every go to “natural” sweetner tends to be. I read food labels carefully. Wouldn’t do me a damn bit of good under a regime like that.


Well, something marked as though it contains sunflower oil but doesn’t actually is harmless* to someone with a sunflower oil allergy. As long as the direction of change is never to add allergens, as per the rule, it’s ok.

I worry about the precedent, I don’t trust this administration or our industrial food system, but this could be implemented responsibly.

*with the major exception of harm to peace of mind if you feel like you can trust labels even less. But I was focusing on the allergic reactions itself.

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“Attention! Here’s an update on tonight’s dinner. It was veal. I repeat, veal. The winner of tonight’s mystery meat contest is Jeffrey Corbin who guessed “some kind of beef.” Congratulations, Jeffery. You’ve just won a brand new Chrysler Cordoba and you can pick it up at Morty’s office.”


Is no one allergic to canola oil? Or are people allergic to canola oil also automatically allergic to sunflower oil, so they wouldn’t be eating the product anyway?


For those for whom this matters (e.g. $HERSELF, who cannot tolerate soy proteins,) there are other bodies that are far less tolerant of ingredient changes. Notably, the kosher certification bodies (circle-U and some others. keyword: hechsher) Not totally reliable WRT the example of oil subs, but they at least insist on constraints in that the new oil has to also be certified. Slows things a bit. WRT adding milk products (a common and potentially life-threatening trigger) they’re absolute. Likewise any animal proteins, which fall under another strict regime.

Not a sure thing, but better than no brakes on the sled at all.


Not helpful if you react to canola oil. Trust me, someone somewhere is allergic to pretty much anything, and their health and well-being is very much tied to accurate, reliable labeling. Which, I guess, is no longer a thing. Guess I need to prep for more allergic reactions to roll in. Damn, what a fucking mess… Can we not clean up one mess before we start another?


Nope. Apparently we need to make more messes to cover up the original messes.


Depends. Can we monetize the change?


We ARE living in a new “Gilded Age” (see Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”). Except the architecture was better during the first one.


Re Naomi Klein: Haymarket Books has been doing a great series of free web talks on Coronavirus Capitalism et al. 2PM a couple of times a week.

Haymarket web talks schedule