Food Allergy Labels?
Contains, May Contain?

Reading food allergy labels is one of the many new things you have to adapt to when you have food allergies, it is a huge lifestyle change.

No more quick trips to the grocery store as you need to carefully read food labels on every product and find where the label is, every product places it in a different place. Most commonly on the back of the product however this varies.

What do you look for when reading a label? How can you tell if your allergen is present in the product? One piece of advice from the FDA is“When in Doubt, Leave it Out” and put the item back on the shelf.

I probably should have followed this advice when I bought the Hodgson Mill’s, milled flax seed as when I looked at the label I saw no cause for concern, it simply states “Ingredients: 100% Milled Flax Seed.

The front of the package also mentions gluten free.

So I assumed that this product was safe.

However every other brand of flax seed I came across stated something similar too “manufactured in a facility that processes tree nuts and soy” which are items I want to avoid.


Per the FDA’s website on the Food Allergen labeling and Consumer Protection Act the federal law requires that labels of MOST packaged foods marketed in the U.S. disclose when they are made with common food allergies.

The below is a list of common food allergies under this law:

Milk, Eggs, Fish, Crustacean shellfish, Tree nuts, Peanuts, Wheat, Soybeans.

Manufactures have a choice on how they can identify the specific food source names; however, even if multiple ingredients contain a major food allergen the law requires

them to only list it once.

You will often see “contains” and “may contain” on labels.

The use of “may contain” is a voluntary statement.

So from my understanding of “may contain”:

If a facility uses equipment to make different products (i.e. one containing an allergen and the other doesn't contain allergen) then they don’t have to state“may contain” for that allergen if it is not included in the actual list of ingredients of the item made without the allergen as an actual ingredient.


After reviewing the information on the below links regarding food allergy labels I don’t feel much comfort. Food Allergy Labels, what to look for from the FDA.

Food Allergies and Food Labeling

While many products that I have come across do state “contains” whatever allergen or “manufactured in a facility that all processes allergen” There are also many products that don’t state this information at all.

Which leaves me to believe it’s safe? Or possibly not as the FDA states “When in Doubt, Leave it Out” So this might mean buying fewer and fewer products that I think are allergy safe.

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