Whole Foods Omitted Allergens on Self-Branded Products, FDA Reports

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it has warned Whole Foods Market, Inc. that it failed to observe strictures of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act thereby exposing consumers to incorrectly labeled packaged food, primarily in the nationwide grocer’s bakery and deli sections. Specifically, the press release explained, Whole Foods failed to list major food allergens on items it either labeled in-store or repackaged from other suppliers.

The FDA reportedly sent the letter to Whole Foods after it recalled more than 30 food products for undeclared allergens between October 2019 and this November. According to the FDA, the letter signifies the first instance where the agency has warned a retail establishment against “engaging in a pattern of offering for sale misbranded store brand labeled food products containing undeclared allergens.”

The announcement also noted that although retailers are excluded from certain Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requirements, they must ensure that labels of food manufactured under their brand name and in-store are accurate with respect to allergens. The FDA’s eight ingredients recognized as major allergens are milk, eggs, certain types of fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans.

William A. Correll, Jr., director of the agency’s Office of Compliance, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, explained that “[u]ndeclared food allergens are the number one leading cause of Class I food recalls for at least the last three years. Consumers deserve to know exactly what they are buying to eat and to trust that the product labels clearly list all major food allergens.” He further stated that the agency is “working to improve [the] industry’s compliance with allergen labeling requirements and reduce food recalls due to undeclared allergens.”

According to the press release, Whole Foods must respond to the issuance within 15 business days specifying how it will address the situation.