Could FDA’s Changes to Food Labeling Result in Product Liability Lawsuits?

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As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released new guidance regarding labeling. This allows food producers to be flexible in labeling their products by making “minor formulation changes” to foods. This decision was made to relieve the stress of supply chain disruptions during the pandemic. 

What is the FDA’s Announcement?

The FDA stated that an ingredient in a food can be changed without updating the ingredient list on the label. This can be done 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. To abide by these rules, 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. In addition to this, the ingredient that is omitted or substituted cannot have an impact on the product’s nutrition.

Examples that the FDA provides can 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?

When a manufacturer puts a product out into the world, they can be held liable if they were negligent in its creation and it harms someone. This is done through product liability law. A common lawsuit that is seen under this is the failure to warn. This occurs when a manufacturer does not provide a warning label on a product that could harm someone if used improperly. In terms of food, this can happen if an ingredient label does not disclose an ingredient someone can be allergic to. In response to the new FDA guidelines, consumer advocacy groups are issuing warnings about the potentially dangerous outcomes of those with food allergies. 

The CEO of, Dave Bloom, spoke on the issue by saying, “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.”

The FDA did not say how long the relaxed guidelines would be in effect. If you or someone you know was harmed as a result of negligence and wishes to pursue a product liability lawsuit, contact an experienced New Jersey personal injury attorney for assistance.

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If you have been injured as a result of a personal injury accident and wish to speak with an attorney, contact the Law Office of Christopher T. Howell, Esq. today.