It’s important to know how to read a nutrition label for allergens, particularly when introducing a new product to your cafeteria, or making a replacement or substitution. As food labels change periodically, make sure your staff checks labels for allergens every time a product is purchased. It’s also highly recommended to keep the label in your records for a minimum of 24 hours after the product is served to a student with food allergies.
As the protein found in the food is responsible for causing the allergic reaction, it’s helpful to have an understanding of the most common proteins, for example, whey and casein found in milk. It’s important to note that food allergens are almost always proteins, but not all food proteins are allergens.
The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) regulates food labels, which must follow the regulations of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA). Effective on January 1, 2006, this law requires that all food labels in the United States list the allergen in one of two ways in the ingredient list. For simplicity purposes, let’s call this Method A and Method B.