Food allergies: Food labels list top 8 allergens

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires food manufacturers to list common food allergens on food labels in simple terms that adults and older children can understand. Common allergens are listed either in the ingredients list, after the list, or right next to it. The labeling requirements are designed to reduce your chances of an accidental allergic reaction to a food.

Revised in January of 2006, the updated food label takes some of the guesswork out of label reading, helping you easily identify foods that could cause an allergic reaction. For example, most people mistakenly believe that nondairy means that there is no milk in a product. Before the label guidelines were revised, the use of "nondairy" was allowed even when the foods contained milk byproducts. If a product contains casein, a milk-derived protein, the product's label now lists the term "milk" in parenthesis after the term "casein." Or, the label will simply state "Contains milk." This simple approach is especially helpful for kids with food allergies who may be choosing their own snacks.

The food allergens

While food labels don't include every possible allergen, they do list the top eight, which account for 90 percent of all documented food allergies:

* Milk

* Eggs

* Peanuts

* Tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts)

* Fish (such as bass, cod, flounder)

* Shellfish (such as crab, lobster, shrimp)

* Soy

* Wheat

This list also represents the foods most likely to cause a severe or life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).


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