Texas Wine Growers Celebrate
Texas Wine Growers (TWG), a 501 (C)6 foundation devoted to research and education for advancing the agricultural processes of winemaking within the state of Texas, is celebrating what is calls a significant milestone in the Texas wine industry. Governor Abbott recently signed into law House Bill 1957, which provides for new regulations for the labeling of wine produced in Texas.
TWG president Chris Brundrett of William Chris Wines says, “We know in our heart of hearts this is the next step as an industry to becoming a world-class wine region.”
Consumers of Texas wine may not realize the wine they have been drinking is not always a genuine Texas wine. Texas currently follows the federal standard where a wine can be labeled as being from Texas so long as at least 75% of the grapes used in the bottle came from somewhere within the state. The remaining 25% could come from outside of the state. The new law, which goes into effect September 1, 2021, requires any label that includes a county, American Viticultural Area (AVA) or vineyard designation follow more stringent requirements. The breakdown is as follows:
- County designation – 75% of the grapes must come from within that county. The remaining 25% may come from anywhere within Texas.
- American Viticultural Area (AVA) – 85% of the grapes must come from within that AVA. The remaining 15% may come from anywhere within Texas
- Vineyard Designation – 95% of the grapes must come from that vineyard. The remaining 5% may come from anywhere within Texas.
- If a wine is labeled as Texas only, it is still able to follow the federal standard of 75% of the grapes from within Texas and the additional 25% from another state.
President Biden has signed into law a new food allergy bill requiring that sesame – to which nearly 1.6 million Americans are allergic – be labeled on packaged foods beginning January 1, 2023, and that food allergy research be given greater priority by the federal government.
“The President’s signing of the FASTER Act is a major victory for the entire food allergy community across the nation,” comments Lisa Gable, CEO of FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), a non-governmental organization engaged in food allergy advocacy and the largest private funder of food allergy research.
Because of its broader focus on food allergy research, the new law will benefit the 85 million Americans who are affected by food allergies and intolerances, including 32 million who have a potentially life-threatening condition.
The FASTER Act requires that sesame be labeled as an allergen on packaged foods. Sesame would become the ninth food allergen for which the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires plain-language labeling. Sesame is often used when a label reads “natural flavors” or “natural spices,” adding another layer of difficulty when consumers review product labels at their local grocery store. This marks the first time since 2004 that a new allergen has been added to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA).
The FASTER Act requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue a report on scientific opportunities in food allergy research that examines prevention, treatment and new cures. In addition, the legislation establishes a risk-based scientific process and framework for establishing additional allergens covered by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
“Today is a wonderful day for food allergy families like mine,” says Talia Day, a mother of two children who are allergic to sesame and a fierce advocate for passage of the FASTER Act. “With President Biden signing the FASTER Act into law today, no longer will I have to live in fear that my children could accidentally eat something that would kill them simply because it was not included on a food label.”
While the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act (FASTER Act) only makes a minor change to add sesame as a major food allergen, it signals the government’s intent to closely examine food allergen restrictions and broaden their scope. The FASTER Act adds sesame to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act’s list of major food allergens. Previously, “major food allergen” referred to eight ingredients: milk, egg, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts, and soybeans. Sesame is now part of this list – nine ingredients considered the most dangerous due to the number of people who are allergic to them and the severity of the reactions they can produce.
The effect of this change is notable in how brands label their products. Starting January 1, 2023, the new requirement will apply to products that contain sesame in any form. In situations where sesame is found within a flavor or spice blend, the FASTER Act would require that sesame be called out and listed as a food allergen. Manufacturers can satisfy the act’s labeling requirements in one of two ways:
- By including a statement “printed immediately after or adjacent to the list of ingredients” that includes the word “contains” followed by “the common or usual name of the major food allergen.”
- Listing the major food allergen as an ingredient which, with certain exceptions, must be “followed in parentheses by the name of the food source from which the major food allergen is derived.”
Sesame’s addition as a major food allergen appears to be just the beginning of changes to food allergy laws. The FASTER Act requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to submit a report with recommendations for the “timely, transparent, and evidence-based modification of the definition of ‘major food allergen’” in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
Labeling regulations in other countries could provide insight as to ingredients that may be added to the list. The EU, for example, currently requires 14 ingredients to be labeled as major allergens, including mustard, celery, cereal containing gluten, lupin (a legume seed), and mollusks. Canada also includes mustard and mollusks in its list of major allergens. Mustard seed is a front runner for being the next addition as it’s a major food allergen in both the EU and Canada, and the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology considers it a common allergy trigger.
For most brands, the addition of sesame or any other ingredient to the major food allergen list will not present much of a logistical challenge. It is likely that manufacturers are already listing other ingredients in compliance with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and will only need to modify the labels to include sesame and any other ingredient that may be added to the major food allergens list. However, interested parties should closely track the Health and Human Services’ report that is likely to suggest additional changes to food allergen laws to keep ahead of new developments in this evolving area of law.
Whether it’s alerting consumers to potential allergens or educating and informing them of where ingredients are sourced from, staying ahead of new labeling requirements is important on many levels. From a business standpoint, new and different labels can translate to increased profits for your business. But more importantly, ethically, it’s the right thing to do and it’s something that ensures brand owner compliance as well as end-user safety.
Steve Katz is the former editor of Label & Narrow Web and is now a regular contributor. He is focused on helping companies in the label industry share their news and tell their stories. Follow him on twitter @LabelSteve.