A quarter of cookie, ice cream and candy manufacturers in Minnesota and Wisconsin produced foods that could cause potentially fatal allergic reactions but their labels didn't list the dangerous ingredients, says a government report.
The Food and Drug Administration sought the study of 85 Midwest manufacturers as a sample of nationwide trends, after noticing an increase in recalls of foods from store shelves because of allergy-inducing ingredients not listed on product labels.
Some 7 million Americans who suffer from food allergies rely on ingredient labels to tell which processed foods are safe for them to consume. Some food allergies, particularly peanut allergies, can be fatal, claiming an estimated 150 lives a year.
The FDA asked Minnesota and Wisconsin state inspectors to look just at peanut and egg allergies, in inspections that took place over two years.
The report found allergens usually slipped into foods undetected because bakers used the same utensils to stir separate mixes or reused baking sheets between batches. In one candy company, certain machinery was washed only once a year, even though both peanut-containing and peanut-free chocolates were run through the equipment.
Also, almost half the companies didn't check their products to ensure all the ingredients were listed on labels.
The companies made major changes to correct the problems, the FDA report found, including some that now issue warning labels that the foods may possibly contain allergens not listed as deliberate ingredients.
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