How to report an allergic reaction to the FDA or USDA

U.S. government chemist Margaret FosterDid you know that undeclared food allergens are a leading cause of food recalls in the United States? According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), from September 2009 to September 2012, about one-third of reports to the agency for serious food safety violations involved top 8 food allergens that were not properly listed on food labels.

The foods most often reported to the FDA for containing undeclared allergens include bakery products (like bread, cakes, and cupcakes), snack foods, candy, and dairy products. The allergens most often involved in FDA food safety recalls have been milk, wheat and soy.

The FDA has found that common causes of recalls for undeclared allergens in foods include accidental cross contact due to the processing of multiple types of food on shared equipment, and labeling errors that cause allergenic ingredients that were intentionally included in a food not to be properly listed on the ingredient label. On rare occasions foods are contaminated with allergens, either deliberately or accidentally, through no fault of the food manufacturer, before they ever reach the factory, as was the case in 2015 when a spate of recalls for undeclared peanut involving a wide variety of items containing the spice cumin happened after a large supply of ground cumin was adulterated (possibly deliberately) with ground peanut shells and/or peanut flour.

The FDA and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) urge Americans who have experienced allergic reactions after eating products that were not properly labeled for allergen content to report those reactions to the appropriate food safety agency. Reactions to most common pre-packaged, processed foods such as bread, cereal, crackers, snack bars, fruit snacks, prepared frozen meals, bottled drinks, etc. should be reported to the FDA. Reactions to fresh meat products, like fresh cuts of beef, chicken or turkey, should be reported to the USDA. (If you are not sure which agency to contact for a particular food product, I suggest trying the FDA first, as the FDA is responsible for about 80% of U.S. food.)

You can make a report to the FDA or the USDA by following the directions at the links below:

Report an allergic reaction to the FDA

Report an allergic reaction to the USDA

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