Skip to main content

Label Reading for Food Allergens

food allergens

Statements on the packaging are your first guide in protecting customers.

Do You Know?

All foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that contain a major food allergen are required by law to list the allergen on the product label.  

Major food allergens = milk, wheat, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, crustacean shellfish, and soy. 

Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act

The law that dictates this is the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) which went into effect in 2006. The primary mission of FALCPA is to help those managing food allergies to quickly identify potential allergens. Because of this law, manufacturers now identify the major food allergens on their ingredient statements through one of two formats: 

1. Including the word “Contains” followed by the name of the major food allergen(s). For example, “Contains milk, wheat”. 

OR

2. Including a parenthetical statement in the list of ingredients. For example: “Albumin (Egg)”. 

Ingredients containing allergens must be listed if they are present in any amount, even in colors, flavorings, or spice blends. The specific nut or fish also must be listed for any foods containing tree nuts, fish, or crustacean shellfish.  

“May Contain” Statements

Other statements found on food labels such as “may contain” or “processed in a plant where ____ is produced” are not required by manufacturers as long as good manufacturing practices and certain sanitation procedures are in place. This eliminates the possibility of the unintended presence of an allergen.  However, if good manufacturing practices and sanitation procedures are followed but the manufacturer cannot completely eliminate the potential for cross-contact with an allergen, the manufacturer must include a “may contain” statement or similar statement on the food label to alert consumers. 

Always Read the Label

Even though FALCPA has made spotting allergens easier, you should read the labels on all packages carefully every time. Ingredients can—and often do—change without warning, so reading the label each time will ensure less chance of an allergic reaction.

For more information on identifying allergens on food labels:

  • If you are a customer, sign up for ServSafe Allergen training by logging onto Gordon Experience, click on Resources > Food Safety Awareness > Online ServSafe courses
  • Visit the Food Allergen Awareness page (under Resources) by logging onto Gordon Experience for customers
  • Visit foodallergy.org for more about food allergies from Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE)

For questions or comments, contact the Gordon Food Service Nutrition Resource Center (NRC) at (800) 968-4426 or email nrc@gfs.com.