Reading Food Labels: Taking a Closer Looking into Ingredients

When it comes to reading food labels, there is so much more to it then the ingredient listed on the label. This sparked us to think about ingredients and the importance of understanding ingredients when dealing with food allergies.

Understanding fats, carbohydrates and proteins will be the topics of our next series. Within the next few months we hope to cover some common inquiries such as types of fat, healthy vs. unhealthy fats, types of carbohydrate including corn, identify sugars, and hidden allergens such as dairy, and explain the building blocks of protein.

Reading Food Label Basics

  • The FDA requires all manufacturers to list all ingredients in the food on the label.
  • Based on the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004, manufacturers are required to list the top eight foods which account for the most food allergies in commonly used terms. This does not include allergens accidentally introduced during manufacturing or packaging through cross-contamination.
  • Ingredients listed on food labels are in order of predominance.This means manufacturers list the ingredient used in the greatest amount first, followed by those in smaller amounts listed next, in descending order. 
  • Ingredients can be categorized into different types:
    • Preservatives (ascorbic acid, citric acid) to prevent food from spoiling
    • Emulsifiers (soy lecithin, mono-and diglycderides) which allow smooth mixing and prevent separation
    • Sweeteners (saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium) to add sweetness with or without the extra calories
    • Color Additives (citrus red no. 2, beta-carotene) which offsets color loss due to exposure to light, air, temperature extremes or moisture

Ready to get started?

Since this blog post originally published, our team has created a lot of articles on reading food allergies. Here are just a few to help you get started:

Sarah O’Brien

Blog post updated: 3/15/19 to include links to newer posts on this topic.

Published: 03/09/2010
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