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Food Labeling Continues: Allergen Warnings

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

By Ashley Ellixson

Allergen label sheet (Photo courtesy of

It’s been quite a while since I addressed food labels, so today I am jumping back in and talking about allergen warnings. I am sure most of you know there is such a thing as an allergen warning but what it is and who needs to have one on their label may not be so clear.

The Laws

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) of 2004 is an amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to make it easier for consumers to identify and avoid foods that contain major food allergens. The FALCPA became effective for foods labeled on or after January 1, 2006, or only the past 10 years. The FALCPA requires the warnings of only eight allergens:

  1. milk

  2. eggs

  3. fish (e.g., bass, flounder, cod)

  4. crustacean shellfish (e.g., crab, lobster, shrimp)

  5. tree nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts, pecans)

  6. peanuts

  7. wheat

  8. soybeans

Why only these eight allergens? It’s because these eight actually account for over 90% of all documented food allergens in the country, and are the allergens most likely to result in severe or life-threatening reactions. The Act applies to both domestic and foreign packaged foods which are also subject to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation.

How Are Allergens Labeled?

The Act requires that foods containing a protein from one of the major eight allergens be labeled in one of two ways:

  1. Include the name of the food source in parenthesis following the common name of the major food allergen in the list of ingredients, when the name of the major allergen does not appear elsewhere in the ingredient statement (

    1. For example: whey (milk)

  2. Place the word “contains” followed by the name of the food source from which the major food allergen is derived, immediately after or adjacent to the list of ingredients, in type size no smaller than the type size used for the list of ingredients (

    1. For example: Contains Wheat and Egg

Are There Exemptions?

Yes. Under the FALCPA, raw agricultural commodities such as fruit and vegetables are exempt. Highly refined oils derived from one of the major food allergens and any ingredients derived from those oils are also exempt.

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