Food Label Awareness: Shellfish and Fish Allergy
When a family member has a seafood allergy, reading is protection.
Label Aware – Fish and Shellfish Allergy
Reading labels is a way of life when you have fish or shellfish allergies. Before eating anything in a package, be sure to read the label carefully. Look for hidden sources of fish or shellfish and other names for fish or shellfish.
Also be on the lookout for precautionary statements. These are statements that indicate an allergen may be in the food, due to cross contamination during processing. Examples of precautionary statements include: “May contain fish” and “Manufactured in a facility that also processes shrimp and crab.”
Allergists generally advise people with fish or shellfish allergies to avoid all products that include precautionary statements about their allergen.
If you are ever uncertain about whether a food product is safe for you, call the manufacturer to confirm. When in doubt, don’t eat it.
In Canada, new regulations (2012) require food manufacturers list priority allergens in plain language on packaging, rather than using rarely known specific names – ie. tarama or orange roughy (fish) or quahaugs (shellfish). The ingredients within listed ingredients that are priority allergens would also have to be shown. For example, manufacturers couldn’t simply list “gelatin” if the source of the gelatin is a priority allergen, such as fish.
More on Canada’s 2012 Food Allergen Regulations.
In the United States, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act went into effect in 2006. FALCPA requires manufacturers to use plain language when listing the top 8 priority allergens, and to declare all allergens either in the ingredient list, or in a “Contains:” statement at the end of the list.
The allergens included in this regulation are milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, wheat peanuts and soybeans. The Canadian regulations also add sesame and mustard as priority allergens, while separate legislation requires companies to declare sulfites if they are present at more than 10 parts per million, or if they had a technical or functional effect in the food.
Both the United States and Canada are studying ways to regulate the precautionary statements used on packaged food labels.