The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), which took effect January 1, 2006, requires that the labels of foods (including conventional foods, dietary supplements, infant formula, and medical foods) containing major food allergens (milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat and soy) note the allergen in plain language, either in the ingredient list or via:
- the word “Contains” followed by the name of the major food allergen – for example, “Contains milk, wheat” – OR
- in the ingredient list in parentheses – for example, “albumin (egg)”
Such ingredients must be listed if they are present in any amount, even in colors, flavors, or spice blends. Also, manufacturers must list the specific nut (e.g., almond, walnut, cashew) or seafood (e.g., tuna, salmon, shrimp, lobster) that is used.
Although FALCPA has made label reading easier, FARE advises individuals and families who are managing food allergies to read all labels on all packages carefully every time. Ingredients can change without warning, so reading labels each time will ensure you avoid any ingredients that may cause a reaction.
“May Contain” Statements
The use of advisory labeling (i.e., precautionary statements such as “may contain,” “processed in a facility that also processes,” or “made on equipment with”) is voluntary and optional for manufacturers. There are no laws governing or requiring these statements, so they may or may not indicate if a product contains a specific allergen. According to the FDA’s guidance to the food industry on this issue, advisory labels “should not be used as a substitute for adhering to current good manufacturing practices and must be truthful and not misleading.” If you are unsure whether or not a product could be contaminated, you should call the manufacturer to ask about their ingredients and manufacturing practices.
Food Labeling Issues
If you believe that a product is mislabeled or contaminated, you can find an FDA consumer complaint center in your area and contact them by visiting this page: www.fda.gov/opacom/backgrounders/complain.html. You can also contact the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Adverse Event Reporting System by phone at (301) 436-2405, by email at CAERS@cfsan.fda.gov, or by mail at FDA, CAERS, HFS-700, 2A-012/CPK1, 5100 Paint Branch Parkway, College Park, MD 20740.
Please note that FARE is not a regulatory body for manufacturers, and our Allergy Alerts are issued only if the USDA, FDA, or manufacturer has formally released a statement about the product.
How to Read a Label Information Sheet >
Frequently Asked Questions About FALCPA >