Food Label Awareness: Peanut Allergy
When a family member has a peanut allergy, reading is protection.
Reading labels is a way of life when you or a member of your family has a peanut allergy. Before eating anything in a package, be sure to read the label carefully. Look for hidden sources of peanuts and alternate names for it.
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 peanuts” and “Manufactured in a facility that contains peanuts.”
Allergists generally advise people with peanut 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 have been proposed that would require food manufacturers list priority allergens in plain language on packaging, rather than using alternate names (ie: arachidic acid instead of peanut). The ingredients within listed ingredients that are priority allergens would also have to be shown. For example, manufacturers couldn’t simply list “hydrolyzed protein” if the source of that protein included a priority allergen, such as peanut.
More on Canada’s New 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 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. These regulations do not include sesame and mustard, unlike the proposed Canadian regulations.
Separate legislation requires companies to declare sulphites if they are present at more than 10 parts per million, or if they had a technical or functional effect in the food.
Both Canada and the United States are studying ways to regulate the precautionary statements used on packaged food labels.