Deciphering Allergy Advisory Labels

Posted 10.9.09 | Christine Graham-Garo

Grocery shopping can be a daunting task for parent of kids with food allergies, and inconsistent labeling terms doesn’t make it any easier. There are currently more than 30 different labeling types! While the FDA mandates that foods containing the top 8 allergens are labeled, there is no law mandating “accidental-allergy warnings” in case a food in cross contaminated during production. And it’s not always clear exactly what the terms/statements on labels really means for your child.

Here are some of the most common terms on food labels, and what each of them means. If there are any more you’re curious about, let us know.

Dairy Free: Food that is labeled as “Dairy Free” may still contain casein, whey or other milk products. It is important to check the ingredient lists of these products for hidden dairy. has a great list of hidden dairy in a variety of products.

Gluten-Free: According to CNN, “The FDA has recently issued standards for foods to be labeled "gluten free." Currently, the "gluten free" label is voluntary — that is, it's up to the manufacturer whether to include it. Many foods are naturally gluten-free and may or may not be labeled as such.” Products with this designation shouldn’t contain gluten, which is a main component of wheat, however some studies have shown low levels. A great resource is, which has a list of safe foods.

Manufactured on the Same Line As/Made in Same Factory As: This means that while the food may not contain the allergen directly, it was manufactured on machinery used to make other products containing potential allergens like peanuts.

May Contain: Even though there are no allergens in the product, they could be cross-contaminated (for example if they share a production facility that manufactures a product containing allergens). Proceed with caution!

Do you have any other tips for navigating the aisles of your grocery store?


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Food Allergy Living is a resource for parents of children with food allergies, brought to you by Nutricia, the makers of Neocate. For more in-depth information about our purpose & authors, see our About Food Allergy Living page.