Reading Food Labels

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) of 2004 was passed to ensure that people with food allergies could easily identify food ingredients that may cause allergic reactions.

What foods are labeled?

NutritionLabelDomestic or imported packaged food is required to have a nutrition label that lists whether the product contains one of the top 8 allergens. Congress limited the labeling requirements to the 8 “major food allergens” because these Top 8 allergens cause 90% of the food allergies in the US.

What allergy information is included on nutrition labels?

The law requires companies to either list the allergen in a “contains” section or in plain language in the ingredients statement. You should read both regardless of the allergy that you have.

The law does not require a manufacturer to list whether the product is manufactured in a facility that processes any of the top 8 allergens.

Some manufacturers will voluntarily include an “advisory statement” that mentions what else may be processed in the facility. They are not required to include this information. Therefore, if you have a severe allergy and cross-contamination is a risk, you must call the manufacturer to make sure that there is no risk.

What foods are not labeled?

FALCPA does not apply to the labeling of products regulated by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). This includes fresh produce, meat and poultry products. Also, highly refined oils are exempt from labeling because there are studies that show that these foods can be safely consumed by people with food allergies (even though these oils may contain very small levels of protein).

Soy lecithin

Soy lecithin does not contain detectable soy protein. Therefore, it is considered safe for a person with a soy allergy by many allergists. However, there are rare cases of soy lecithin allergy. If you are not sure if soy lecithin is safe for you, please contact your doctor.
If a product is labeled as “contains soy” and the only ingredient listed is soy lecithin, you should not assume that that is the only soy ingredient.

Kosher

Kosher labeling cannot be used as a guide to determine whether a product has milk in it.