Those who suffer from food allergies rely on labels to determine which foods are safe for them to eat. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) is the primary federal law that determines how allergens are presented on packaged foods sold in the U.S. It allows for labels to be read quickly and easily.
However, there are some cases in which the FALCPA doesn’t cover. Some allergens are not required by law to be stated on packaging. NY Allergy & Sinus Centers is here to give you all the important facts regarding allergen labels to help you make an informed decision about the foods you eat.
Companies Are Only Required To Label The Top 8 Food Allergens
The top 8 food allergens include:
• Tree nuts
While these foods are the cause of about 90% of reported allergic reactions, they are not the only foods that people are severely allergic to. Sesame allergies are increasing, but companies do not label sesame as an allergen.
Mustard allergy is also common, and it is actually labeled as a serious allergen in Canada; but the U.S. has not yet considered it a priority food allergen. In these cases, you’ll have to work a little harder when reading labels. Contact the manufacturer if you aren’t sure if a product contains a food you are allergic to.
Manufacturers Are Not Required To Disclose Cross-Contact During The Manufacturing Process
You know those labels that state, “made in a facility that processes nuts, milk, and wheat”? Well it turns out that it is completely voluntary for companies to mark this on labels. The FALCPA does not cover cross-contamination; so, some products out there could be processed next to an allergen and you wouldn’t even know.
If you have a serious food allergy, we suggest only buying foods that have this statement clearly written on the packaging. Also, when dining out, ask your server if all the food is processed on one grill or fryer. Cross-contamination is just as dangerous as direct consumption.
FALCPA Labeling Does Not Cover Highly Refined Oils
Highly refined oils made from allergens, such as peanuts and soy, are also not required to be labeled. Studies show that these oils do not cause allergic reactions. However, some have reported to show sensitivity to even highly refined oils.
If you are sensitive to these oils, be cautious when trying new foods. You can also call the manufacturer to find out if the product contains oils that might cause an allergic reaction.
Products Labeled Non-Dairy May Still Contain Milk-Derivatives
Many people believe that non-dairy means that the product doesn’t contain any dairy; but this isn’t true. While the food may not contain milk, it could contain a milk protein such as sodium caseinate. So if you see a product that claims it is non-dairy on the front of the package, don’t assume it is dairy-free. You should still read the entire label, and make yourself aware of hidden allergen terms.
FALCPA Does Not Cover Personal Care Items
Allergens can be hidden in your soap, shampoo, and other personal care items. Many companies are switching to an all-natural ingredient list, which means they are using ingredients that could cause an allergic reaction. For example, some companies use almond milk in their shampoos and conditioners because it is believed to be healthy for your hair.
If your allergy is flared by direct contact, causing contact dermatitis, then these products can cause an allergic reaction. Since personal care items do not have to state if they contain an allergen, you need to thoroughly read the ingredient list.
Individuals can report mislabeling to the FDA
Don’t let these facts discourage you. You can help yourself and others stay safe by reporting any products mislabeled. Contact the FDA consumer complaint coordinator in your area by phone, email, or mail to report any problems you have with allergen labels. This ensures that every company is following regulation and allergic reactions are minimal.
Meet The Physician Collaborator
Dr. Kena Shah is a board certified physician specializing in adult and pediatric allergy & immunology. She received her degree from Nova Southeastern University in Miami, Florida. She participates in research and has authored and co-authored multiple journal articles. You can book an appointment with her by calling (718) 416-0207 or by visiting one of our six locations.