UPDATE: Labeling Missteps | God's World News

UPDATE: Labeling Missteps

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    Loaves of Bimbo bread at a market in Anaheim, California (AP/Damian Dovarganes)


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Plan on eating a hot dog this Independence Day? Food safety officials have a message for roll and bun makers: Stop labeling products as containing allergens when they don’t.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors found problems at Bimbo Bakeries USA. The company owns brands like Sara Lee, Thomas’, Entenmann’s, and Ball Park. The bakery listed ingredients such as sesame or tree nuts on labels . . . even when they weren’t in the foods.

FDA officials call such products “misbranded.” They sent a warning letter to the company’s headquarters last month.

“Food labels must be truthful and not misleading,” officials say. They also assert that labeling is “not a substitute” for preventing cross-contamination in factories.

Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) is a food allergy research non-profit. Millions of people in the United States have food allergies. Advocates with FARE say incorrect labeling does them a disservice. Those consumers must be constantly aware of foods that could cause serious allergic reactions. “These findings about Bimbo Bakeries’ products undermine their trust and further limit their choices,” says FARE CEO Sung Poblete.

Mexico City-based food giant Bimbo may be the largest baking company in the United States. Bimbo officials say they “take their role in protecting consumers with [food allergies] very seriously.”

Concerns over labels at Bimbo and other companies followed a 2022 law. The ruling added sesame to the list of allergens that must be recorded on packaging.

Keeping sesame out of every part of a baking plant can be difficult and expensive. Some companies began adding small amounts of sesame to products that didn’t contain the ingredient. Adding and labeling sesame helped avoid liability, extra work, and increased cost.

Bimbo and some others went further. They began listing allergens such as sesame on labels without adding anything. They called it a “precaution.”

FDA officials used Bible language when they said those practices violated the spirit, but not the letter, of federal law. Today, people use “letter of the law” to refer to following rules exactly but missing the intent of those rules.

Bimbo obeyed the rules by listing potential, though possibly avoidable, allergens. Yet the company sidestepped the spirit of the law—which was to help folks with allergies navigate the minefield of packaged foods to identify those they could safely consume. The spirit of the law would include taking steps to avoid cross-contamination, making products safer for those with allergies. 

FDA officials admit that saying a product “may contain” certain allergens might be “truthful and not misleading.” They’ve given Bimbo officials until July 8 to explain steps taken to remedy the issue—or explain why their labeling doesn’t violate FDA standards.

The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. — 2 Corinthians 3:6