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FDA's sulfite specialists say scientists, at this time, are not sure how the body reacts to sulfites. To help sulfite-sensitive people avoid problems, FDA requires the presence of sulfites in processed foods to be declared on the label, and prohibits the use of sulfites on fresh produce intended to be sold or served raw to consumers (see "A Fresh Look at Food Preservative" in the October 1993 FDA Consumer).
- FD&C Yellow No. 5
Color additives must go through the same safety approval process as food additives. But one color, FD&C Yellow No. 5 (listed as tartrazine on medicine labels), may prompt itching or hives in a small number of people.
Since 1980 (for drugs taken orally) and 1981 (for foods), FDA has required all products containing Yellow No. 5 to list it on the labels so sensitive consumers could avoid it. (As of May 8, 1993, food labels must list all certified colors as part of the requirements of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990. See "From Shampoo to Cereal, Seeing to the Safety of Color Additives" in the December 1993 FDA Consumer.)
Heredity may cause a predisposition to have allergies of any type, and repeated exposure to allergens starts sensitizing those who are susceptible. Some experts believe that, rarely, a specific allergy can be passed on from parent to child. Several studies have indicated that exclusive breast-feeding, especially with maternal avoidance of major food allergens, may deter some food allergies in infants and young children. (Smoking during pregnancy can also result in the increased possibility that the baby will have allergies.) Most patients who have true food allergies have other types of allergies, such as dust or pollen, and children with both food allergies and asthma are at increased risk for more severe reactions.