September 20, 2023

Allergens and Food Labels: What the FDA Requires

by admin in Peanut Allergy0 Comments

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) covers the labeling of packaged food products regulated by the FDA.

FALCPA does not address meat, poultry or egg products, which are regulated by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. It also does not cover raw or fresh fruits or vegetables.

Allergen Labeling Overview

Under FALCPA, food containing any of the eight “major food allergens” must list the allergen on the food label. The eight major allergens are:

  1. milk
  2. egg
  3. fish
  4. crustacean shellfish (e.g., crab, shrimp, lobster)
  5. tree nuts
  6. wheat
  7. peanuts
  8. soybeans (soy, soya)

Molluscan shellfish (e.g., clams, oysters, scallops, mussels) are not considered a major food allergen.

The label regulations apply to foods made with any ingredient – including colorings, flavorings, or processing aids (additives) – that is or contains one of the eight allergens. However, manufacturers have the option of requesting an exemption from FALCPA requirements for a food ingredient.

FALCPA rules include foods packaged for human consumption by foodservice or retail establishments, but does not apply to foods put in a box or wrapper to meet an immediate customer order, such as a sandwich ordered at Subway.

Allergen Labeling Specifics

There are specific directions in FALCPA for the labeling of tree nut, fish, and Crustacean shellfish allergens. The term “wheat” refers to any species of the Triticum wheat family.

  1. Tree nuts: The specific type of tree nut used in a food product must be indicated on the food label. Tree nuts include the following: almond, beech nut, Brazil nut, butternut, cashew, chestnut, chinquapin, coconut, hazelnut, ginkgo, Hickory, lichee, macadamia, pecan, pine, pistachio, sheanut, and walnut. (This comprehensive list includes some nuts not usually used in food production.)
  2. Fish and crustacean shellfish: The source of seafood allergens must be indicated on the label by naming the type of fish or shellfish used. For instance, a label may read, “Contains trout,” “Contains salmon” or “Contains crab.”
  3. Wheat: The phrase “Contains wheat” includes grains such as common wheat, durum wheat, club wheat, spelt, semolina, Einkorn, emmer, kamut and triticale – all members of the plant family Triticum.

FALCPA and The Food Label

A major allergen may be listed as one of the product’s ingredients. You might read “Ingredients: Wheat flour, vanilla, sugar, eggs, peanuts.” Major food allergens can also be indicated on food labels two other ways:

  1. The source of a food allergen can be put in parenthesis behind a food ingredient’s common market name. You may read, “Ingredients: enriched flour (wheat flour), whey (milk) lecithin (soy).”
  2. A label may use the word “Contains” immediately followed by the allergen source or sources. You might read, “Contains: Milk, Wheat, Peanuts.” If a label uses a contains statement, the statement must include all allergens in the product.

Single ingredient foods are required to follow FALCPA rules as well. For instance, an all-purpose wheat flour must list wheat flour as an ingredient or use a “Contains: Wheat” statement.

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