How to Read Nutrition Labels to Find Food Allergens

FALCPA Fast Facts:

  • FALCPA stands for: the Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act
  • It passed into law in 2004
  • It only applies to ‘major food allergens’. These are your big 8: milk, egg, peanuts, tree nuts (like walnuts or pecans), wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish (like lobster, shrimp or crab)
  • Shellfish does not include molluscan shellfish like scallops, clams, mussels and oysters
  • For tree nuts, fish and crustacean shellfish the specific type of nut or fish must be labeled
  • FALCPA is for FDA regulated foods only, like:
    • Packaged foods
    • Conventional foods
    • Vitamins and dietary supplements
    • Infant formula and infant foods
    • Medical foods

These FALCPA rules do not apply to:

  • Fresh meat, fruit, vegetables
  • Carry out box from restaurants (think a sandwich you order or bakery, street food, food trucks, festival foods, fast food restaurants)
  • Highly refined oils
  • Prescription & over the counter drugs
  • Personal care items like cosmetics, shampoo, mouthwash, toothpaste
  • Alcoholic drinks, spirits, beer, tobacco
  • Kosher labeling
  • Pet foods

Read labels every time, even if you trust a product

  • There are no rules about changing ingredients or communicating those changes
  • Sometimes different sizes have different ingredients. Like a fun size candy bar could be different than a King size

If the allergen is not a top 8 what do you do

  • Other foods do not have to be declared
  • Call the manufacturer and ask, but they don’t have to tell you
  • When in doubt, don’t use it

There are 2 ways to show you there is a major food allergen on packaging

  • Option 1: list the allergen in () after an ingredient. Ingredients: natural flavors (almond), salt
  • Option 2: Ingredients: natural flavors, Contains: almond

Declarations of trace amounts are voluntary

  • Things like “may contain”, or “processed in a facility with” are voluntary
  • A manufacturer does not have to warn you that there may be unintentional traces or cross-contamination