Understand food labels to avoid allergic reactions
Understanding food labels is extremely important for people who have food allergies. If you have food allergies or if you handle and prepare food for anyone who does, learn how to recognize allergens on food labels.
Look for allergen information on food labels
You will find labels on all packaged foods made in the United States. They're also on all imported packaged foods that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates.
The law requires food manufacturers to print separately, at the bottom of the ingredients list, eight of the most common food allergens:
- Tree nuts, such as cashews, almonds and walnuts
- Fish, such as cod, flounder and bass
- Shellfish, such as lobster, shrimp and crab
If you or anyone in your family is allergic to gluten, make sure any packaged food you buy is specifically labeled "gluten-free." The FDA requires that these foods meet a specified standard for gluten content.
March 04, 2014
See more In-depth
- Food allergy: Tips to remember. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/at-a-glance/food-allergy.aspx. Accessed Jan. 22, 2014.
- Boyce JA, et al. Guidelines for the diagnosis of food allergy in the United States: Report of the NIAID-Sponsored Expert Panel. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2010;126(suppl):S1.
- Kim JS, et al. Living with food allergy: Allergy avoidance. Pediatric Clinics of North America. 2011;58:459.
- Gluten-free labeling of foods. US Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/Allergens/ucm362510.htm. Accessed Jan. 23, 2014.
- Vierk KA, et al. Prevalence of self-reported food allergy in American adults and use of food labels. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2007;19:1504.