Composition With Common Food Allergens
Composition with common food allergens including egg, milk, soya, nuts, fish, seafood, wheat flour, mustard, dried apricots and celery

By George Nelson, sustainability consultant

Statistics from Food Allergy Research and Education show that 1 in 10 adults have food allergies of some kind, and allergic reactions can be very dangerous, or even fatal in the worst cases. 

That’s why it’s so important to warn people about the presence of any possible allergens in the foods and drinks they consume, and labeling has a large part to play in this.

Food and beverage container labels typically contain allergy information, letting people know about the risks of consuming certain foods. In this article, we’ll explore the regulations regarding allergen labeling and its importance.

Regulations and requirements for allergen labeling

When it comes to food and beverage containers, companies are required to include allergy information on all labels. The FDA sets out these requirements in order to help protect consumers against inadvertent allergic reactions, and it’s vital to comply with all of the relevant guidelines and rules when labeling a food or drink item that could trigger an allergic response.

Ingredient labeling requirements

For all food and drink labels, the FDA provides certain ingredient labeling requirements, ensuring that consumers have as much information as possible regarding the contents of the foods and drinks they consume.

Listing of all ingredients

Every food and drink label should include a full and complete list of ingredients. No item can be left on this list, even those that are only used in small quantities, as it only takes a tiny amount of certain allergens to trigger a reaction.

The ingredients list should feature clearly on the label and be easy to read. If any ingredients are left out of the list, the product could be recalled and new labels will need to be made containing the correct information.

Allergen labeling requirements

The FDA also has specific and strict regulations when it comes to allergy information on food labels. The law requires that every single label should clearly state the presence or possible presence of any major food allergen.

A typical example of allergy information on a food container label may read as follows: 

“Contains wheat and soy. May contain traces of nuts and shellfish.”

In this example, the presence of wheat and soy are definite and clearly stated as such, while the presence of nuts and shellfish is only a possibility. This usually means that the product itself does not contain nuts or shellfish as ingredients, but that it may be prepared in a factory or environment where these ingredients are also present, and trace amounts could therefore end up in the food product itself.

The FDA also states that food and drink labels need to clearly state which specific type of allergen, like a nut or species of fish, is present in the item. This can be done in the ingredients list. 

Therefore, the allergy section may say something like “Contains nuts” and the ingredients list will specifically list nut types, like peanuts and almonds. The reasoning behind this is so that consumers can quickly scan the allergy section to see if any of the major allergy groups are present, and then consult the ingredients list for more detailed information.

Regulatory compliance

In the food and drink industry, regulatory compliance is absolutely essential. Incorrect labeling could lead to serious consequences, especially if allergens are not properly listed on a label, leading to consumers believing that the product in question is safe for them to eat or drink.

Food and drink businesses need to be aware and up to date with all the latest regulations and comply with every single step. Even a minor oversight or error can be catastrophic in this particular field of labeling.

FDA requirements for beverage labeling

For beverage labels, the FDA imposes similar restrictions and requirements. When making beverage container labels, companies must ensure that they list all of the ingredients present in each beverage, as well as noting any allergens or possible allergens from the major food groups.

Importance of clear and accurate labeling for allergen management

There can be no doubt that allergen labels help to save lives and prevent medical emergencies, giving consumers the information they need to make the right dietary choices and avoid products that could trigger negative responses in their bodies.

However, if the labels are not sufficiently clear and accurate, they can become far less effective and fail to give people reliable warnings about allergens in food and drinks.

Clear and accurate labeling to avoid health risks

Every company in the food and drink business needs to take labeling seriously. It’s only with clear and accurate labels that we can help to avoid unnecessary health risks for consumers and the general public at large.

Consumers need to be able to rely on businesses to ensure that all regulations are met and all relevant information is printed onto each and every label. For this reason, businesses are strongly encouraged to find proven and trusted labeling partners.

Modern labeling technologies to improve allergen management

Labeling technologies are evolving, and as labels improve, new possibilities emerge to take allergen management to the next level. The evolution of permanent labeling methods like polymer fusion, for example, can help to create truly lifelong labels that won’t peel or fade away.

This can be hugely beneficial in the field of allergen management. Old labeling methods may use adhesives that can wear down and inks that may fade over time, rendering the labels useless, but with modern, permanent labeling, it’s possible to list allergy information on a product for its entire lifecycle.

The role of consumer education in allergen management

Labeling is just one part of the puzzle for allergen management. It’s also vital for consumers to be educated and informed about the risks of allergic ingredients. They should know about the need to always read labels and be particularly careful when trying new foods for the first time that may contain allergens, like nuts, dairy, seeds, and shellfish.

Through a combination of effective consumer education and modern labeling practices, the number of allergic reactions across the world can gradually be reduced.

George Nelson is a sustainability consultant who is currently working with Polyfuze. He is passionate about life-changing innovation, and industrial and manufacturing technologies. George loves discovering and sharing new technologies that shape the sustainability agenda. He has many fascinating articles published in various magazines and blogs.

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