Rep. and Senator Introduce Bill to Prevent Illness
and Deaths with Better Food Labels

May 7, 2002

WASHINGTON – Representative Nita M. Lowey (D-Westchester/Queens/Bronx) and Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) today announced the introduction of the Food Allergen Consumer Protection Act.

During National Food Allergy Awareness Week, this bill’s introduction highlights the challenges faced by the 7 million Americans who suffer from food allergies. An estimated 200 Americans die and 30,000 visit emergency rooms each year due to the ingestion of allergenic foods, but these deaths and illnesses are preventable. We must better protect food allergic consumers because they are at constant risk:

“Food-allergic consumers are forced to look to a food’s ingredient statement for health and dietary information,” said Lowey, who discussed the issue on a press conference call today. “But, food ingredient labels are currently written for scientists, not consumers. Getting accurate, reliable, and thorough information is harder than it should be. This is a serious health hazard – even deadly – for the food allergic consumer.”

“Parents of children with food allergies need more accurate and easier to read food labels to choose safe foods for their children, and the Food Allergen Consumer Protection Act will give them that,” said Kennedy. “I look forward to working with Representative Lowey and with Senator Clinton to get this bill through Congress and to the President’s desk.”

“Hidden ingredients in food pose a serious health hazard for over 200,000 children in New York at risk of food allergy. For these children, food that most of us enjoy as nourishment is instead a lethal health risk that must be avoided at all costs," said Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), an original cosponsor of the bill. "But tragically, food-allergic children and their parents aren't given the information they need to take the necessary precautions, or they confront labels that read like a Periodic Table of Elements. The legislation we're introducing today will help unscramble the facts so that parents can make quick decisions in their grocery store aisles.”

Food allergic consumers are at constant risk without complete and reliable food labels because they are forced to decipher difficult-to-read ingredient lists. For example, “whey,” “casein,” and “lactoglobulin” are all terms approved by the Food and Drug Administration to indicate the presence of milk in a product.

The Food Allergen Consumer Protection Act would make food ingredient statements clear, accurate, and reliable to ensure the health and well-being of food-allergic consumers. The Lowey-Kennedy bill includes the following measures:

Amie Rappoport, Director of the Food Allergy Initiative, and Sarah Michelle Gitlin Schrager, an 11-year-old who suffers from food allergies, joined Lowey for the call today. “This bill, if passed, will help the millions of children and adults who live in fear of eating the wrong food with every bite they take,” said Rappoport. “All families deserve to feel confident about the safety of the food on their tables.”

“Our food-allergic children should not be expected to decipher terms like ‘casein,’ ‘albumin,’ or ‘miso.’ You shouldn’t have to be a scientist to determine what you and your family are eating,” said Lowey. “I will continue to fight to provide our families with the nutritional information they need to make wise dietary choices.“