When you are reading labels looking for peanut ingredients, you have the government on your side. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (in effect since January 1, 2006) requires that food labels declare major food allergens, including peanuts, in an easy to understand language. The food label can list peanuts as an allergen in the main ingredients list or in warning statements, like:
- Contains Peanuts
- May contain peanuts
- May contain trace amounts of peanuts
- Processed on equipment that also processes peanuts
These warnings let you know that the food you are about to buy has, or could have, peanuts.
Peanut Allergy Shopping Precautions
While this is great for you, the consumer, and makes it easier in helping you avoid consuming a poison, there are still precautions you need to take to protect yourself. Follow these helpful tips to protect yourself when you are shopping.
Always Read Labels
Always read the label of any food you are buying. Even if you bought the food item 300 times before, read the food label again as companies tend to change the ingredients without warning the consumer. What was peanut free last week may have peanuts in it this time.
Avoid Products that "may contain" or "has trace amounts" of peanuts
If you find a label that states it "may contain peanuts", avoid it. While you may be able to safely eat it one time and were lucky enough to grab the can from the batch that didn't contain peanuts, the next time you might not be so lucky.
Avoid Products that say, "Processed on equipment..."
If you see a label that states that your food item "was processed on equipment that also processes peanuts", put it back! The risk of cross-contamination is too great. If the equipment wasn't sanitized in between the processing of your food and the peanuts before them, your food could be contaminated with peanuts.
Call the Manufacturer if you aren't sure
While the labels are warning that the product may contain or was processed on equipment that processes peanuts, these labels are voluntary. If you are unsure whether your food item contains peanuts or not, call the manufacturer and ask. I've always been able to find information about the manufacturer on the package, and usually the number is on there too. If not, a quick Google search can help you find their customer service number.
What do I do if I think my food contains peanuts and it's not labeled?
You can file a complaint with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) a couple of ways:
- Call an FDA Consumer Complaint Center in your area.
- File a complaint online at their Report a Problem page.
- Contact the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Adverse Event Reporting System
by phone at (301) 436-2405
by mail at:
FDA, CAERS, HFS-700, 2A-012/CPK1
5100 Paint Branch Parkway
College Park, MD 20740.