We receive many questions regarding those “May contain…” type precautionary allergen warnings you often see on labels. With that in mind, here’s a 10-second quiz to see how well you know what those warnings really mean:
The following are allergen warnings you might find on a product that does not contain the allergen as an ingredient. Simply put them in order of least to most risk that the product contains traces of the allergen:
A – May contain allergen
B – Manufactured in a facility that also processes allergen
C – Manufactured on equipment that also processes allergen
D – May contain traces of allergen
E – [No statement]
You have 10 seconds while we show you ads. Go!
Ready for the answer? Here goes: you can’t… it’s a trick question.
The explanation provides insight into a major weakness of the FALCPA regulations that govern how allergens are disclosed on food products sold in the US. FALCPA requires manufacturers to disclose when any of eight allergens are ingredients of a product but says nothing about whether and how a product must disclose the potential for cross-contact (i.e. contamination) with those allergens.
Those warnings you see can’t provide insight into the risk (or probability) that a product contains traces of an allergen because the FDA provides no guidelines for how they should be worded and when they should be used.
Likewise, the absence of such a warning does not mean the product is safe from containing traces of the allergen!
What does this all mean? If you care for someone with a severe allergy and are concerned about allergen trace — as we feel you should be — steer clear of any product that provides a voluntary warning regardless of how it is worded. If the product does not bear a warning, your job isn’t done… you need to call the manufacturer to confirm whether and how the allergen is processed in the facility where the product is manufactured.
Are these loopholes and oversights dangerous to the food allergy community? Absolutely, and we need to do something about it.
We have an opportunity right now to amend legislation already making its way through Congress known as the Food Label Modernization Act of 2021, an opportunity that may not come again for years.
But to have that legislation amended to address the concerns of the allergic community, we need your help now.
Please click here to sign and share the petition:
Petition to Strengthen the Food Labeling Modernization Act to Protect the Allergic Community