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:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts, such as cashews, almonds and walnuts
  • Fish, such as cod, flounder and bass
  • Shellfish, such as lobster, shrimp and crab
  • Wheat
  • Soy

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