FDA investigating low levels of peanut residue found in flour.

  • Peanuts are among the “Big 8” allergens covered by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA).  Food companies must declare the presence of major allergens on the labels of food products.  Additionally, as part of good manufacturing practices (GMPs), facilities must take steps to protect food against unintentional cross-contact with allergens.
  • FDA recently issued a safety advisory to consumers, advising them to avoid specific products because of peanut residue that may have been present in the flour used to make these foods.  The flour supplier notified FDA that sampling by a customer found peanut residue in cookies and that subsequent investigation identified soft red winter wheat flour as the source.  Both the supplier and FDA have reported additional samples testing positive for peanut residue since that time.  The supplier ceased manufacturing and distribution of the flour product and conducted a recall, which implicates food processors (since the supplier does not sell directly to consumers).  FDA is actively working with food processors to determine whether their products pose a safety hazard that would trigger a recall.  Of some comfort to the food industry, FDA does not publicize the names of each potentially affected recipient, noting that “it is prohibited by law from releasing publicly certain information about supply chains, such as the names of customers, if it constitutes confidential commercial information.”
  • It is somewhat unusual, although not unprecedented, for FDA to issue consumer safety advisories in this type of situation.  This case illustrates the way in which a safety problem at a single supplier’s facility can affect multiple processors and finished foods.