Why Does the Label On My Peanut Butter Say CONTAINS PEANUTS?


So the other day I was making my son, the son without peanut allergies, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and glass of milk. I glanced at the label on the peanut butter jar and noticed "CONTAINS PEANUTS." highlighted in bold, below the ingredients, which clearly lists "dry roasted peanuts" as the main ingredient. Interesting.


Then I grabbed the bag of Sara Lee 100% Whole Wheat bread, looked at the label, and saw that in addition to the multiple mentions of wheat in the ingredients, it also says CONTAINS WHEAT, MILK AND SOY. Like we didn't already know the WHEAT bread contains WHEAT!


After putting the finishing touches on the PB&J, slicing off the crusts and cutting the the sandwich in half, it was time to pour the milk. Sure enough, underneath the ingredients of this Trader Joe's milk carton that clearly indicates milk three times in the ingredients, is the statement CONTAINS MILK.

Isn't this a bit overkill!?? Does someone think I'm stupid? (Don't answer that.)

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) of 2004 initiated new food labeling requirements for eight food groups that, according to the FDA, are the source of 90% of food allergies in the U.S. Food allergies affect 2% of adults and 5% of children.

The eight foods, all proteins, are milk, eggs, fish (e.g., bass, flounder, cod), Crustacean shellfish (e.g., crab, lobster, shrimp), tree nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts, pecans), peanuts, wheat and soybeans.

Source: FDA.gov: FALCPA requires food manufacturers to label food products that contain an ingredient that is or contains protein from a major food allergen in one of two ways:

The first option for food manufacturers is to include the name of the food source in parenthesis following the common or usual name of the major food allergen in the list of ingredients in instances when the name of the food source of the major allergen does not appear elsewhere in the ingredient statement.

The second option is to place the word "Contains" followed by the name of the food source from which the major food allergen is derived, immediately after or adjacent to the list of ingredients, in type size that is no smaller than the type size used for the list of ingredients.

I've underlined the statement that puzzles me. If the allergen appears elsewhere in the ingredient statement, it would appear the label meets FALCPA labeling requirements. Yet, the labels shown above all include the redundant "CONTAINS (PEANUTS/WHEAT/MILK)" statement anyways. Why, why, why? I suspect the manufacturers figure, why not. Maybe someone will blog about it and give us free publicity.


So later on, after the kid's belly was full, I thought, what other allergens lurk in our fridge? Ah ha! Eggs! It took me a bit longer to find the label on the egg carton, hidden on the inside cover (hey, I don't cook much). I was actually a bit disappointed to NOT find the statement "CONTAINS EGGS" on the label. Darn it, now I'm left to wonder, are these really eggs?

To learn more about FALCPA requirements, visit www.fda.gov or download an actual pdf copy of the law at www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/GuidanceRegulation/UCM179394.pdf. Joking aside, it's a great law that helps food allergy sufferers more clearly identify foods that could cause them much grief.