Food Allergen Labeling may be Misleading


AllergyKids, March 2007 – Many parents of children with food allergies rely on allergen warning labels found under a product’s list of ingredients to tell them if the product contains allergens, labels that read: “Contains  _____(allergens).”  According to the FDA and the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), these “Contains_____(allergens)” labels are optional and do not appear on all products.

What does this mean to you?
If a product does not include a “Contains_____(allergens)” label, do not assume that the product is allergen-free. 
According to FALCPA, companies are required to list ingredients in common language (for example, casein must be listed in the ingredient list as “milk”), but they are not required to also identify allergens under the additional statement: “Contains_____(allergens)”.
Because this labeling is optional and not found on all products, please read the entire list of ingredients to learn if allergens are found in products that do not have these additional labels. 
Do most products include these additional labels?
Yes.  Fortunately, most companies, out of concern for the millions of individuals with food allergies, have voluntarily agreed to include these additional labels.  For example, under the list of ingredients on Target’s Market Pantry® brand macaroni and cheese, Target voluntarily includes the statement: “Contains wheat and milk ingredients.”  However, some of the larger food companies do not include these additional labels.
Does the FDA require "May Contain____" labeling?
No.  According to the FALCPA, the FDA does not require the “May contain______(allergen)" labels but " does inspect a variety of packaged foods to ensure that the ingredients are properly labeled."
At AllergyKids, our concern is that between 2003 and 2006, FDA food safety inspections dropped 47 percent, according to CNN and a database analysis of federal records by The Associated Press.  Safety tests for U.S.-produced food dropped nearly 75 percent during that same time period.

Is there anything else that I can do?
Continue to read all ingredients closely, especially labels that do not include the additional “Contains_____ (allergen)” statement, as you may not have noticed allergens in the ingredients’ list.
Please support AllergyKids by purchasing a Med Case for your child’s epinephrine or a Lunch Sack for your toddler to take to preschool so that we can continue to bring you and your family this important, independently funded research.

About Author

Alisa is the founder of, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

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