Food Labels Must List Common Allergens

Publish date:
Updated on
Image placeholder title

Earlier this week, I covered the new food labeling requirements on trans fats. Also effective Jan. 1 is a new law that requires labels to clearly state if food products contain any proteins derived from the eight major allergenic foods:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Crustacean shellfish (shrimp, crab, lobster)
  • Tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc.)
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat
  • Soybeans

The Food and Drug Administration enacted the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) because approximately 2% of adults and 5% of infants and young children suffer from food allergies—30,000 of which require emergency room treatment. About 150 Americans die each year from allergic reactions to food.

FALCPA requires food manufacturers to label products with the identified ingredients in one of two ways:

  1. Include the name of the food source in parentheses following its usual name. For example: Ingredients: Enriched flour (wheat flour, malted barley, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), sugar, partially hydrogenated soybean oil and/or cottonseed oil, whey (milk), eggs, vanilla, salt, leavening (sodium acid pyrophosphate, monocalcium phosphate), lecithin (soy), mono- and diglycerides (emulsifier).
  2. Place the word “Contains,” followed by the name of the food source from which the major food allergen is derived, immediately after or adjacent to the list of ingredients. The type size cannot be smaller than that used in the ingredients list. For example: Contains Wheat, Milk and Soy.

FALCPA does not require food manufacturers or retailers to remove or relabel products that were labeled before Jan. 1. Consumers with allergies must recognize there will be a transition period and continue to read package ingredient statements.

The new labeling law will be especially helpful to children who need to learn how to spot the presence of substances they must avoid. For example, if a product contains the milk-derived protein casein, the product’s label will have to use the term “milk” in addition to the term “casein” so those with milk allergies can clearly understand its presence.

Related Stories