5 Things You Should Know About Food Labels

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Do you have food allergies or are you responsible for someone who does? You may think you’re a pro at reading food labels, but here are five things you should know about US allergen labeling requirements:

  1. Current labeling requirements regarding food allergies are dictated by an act of Congress known as FALCPA which became effective January 1, 2006.
  2. FALCPA mandates that manufacturers highlight the presence of eight major food allergens as ingredients in their products:
    • Milk
    • Eggs
    • Fish (e.g., bass, flounder, cod)
    • Crustacean Shellfish (e.g., crab, lobster, shrimp)
    • Tree Nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts, pecans)
    • Peanuts
    • Wheat
    • Soybeans
  3. Other than these major allergens, manufacturers have no responsibility to highlight the presence of other potential allergens. If you are concerned about allergies to other food items (e.g. sesame seeds or strawberries) you must scrutinize the individual ingredients on the label. Even this may not be enough as your allergen may be disguised as “natural flavoring” or “spices”, so call the manufacturer.
  4. The presence of a major food allergen as an ingredient must be disclosed in one of two ways:
    1. The name of the food source of a major food allergen must appear in parentheses following the name of the ingredient.

      Examples: “lecithin (soy),” “flour (wheat),” and “whey (milk)”

    2. Immediately after or next to the list of ingredients in a “contains” statement.

      Example: “Contains Wheat, Milk, and Soy.

  5. Contrary to popular belief, manufacturers are not required to disclose potential allergens that may be introduced as part of the manufacturing process. All disclosures such as “Made in a factory that also processes peanuts” are entirely voluntary. There are no standards for the wording of these disclosures or guidelines for when they should be used, so consider them (or their absence) with caution.
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