Confused by USDA ingredient & allergen labeling? Read the facts recently confirmed by the agency

Confused by USDA ingredient & allergen labeling? Read the facts recently confirmed by the agency

Over the past week, two of the amazing members of the Gluten Free Watchdog community reached out regarding issues with USDA labeling. In case you sometimes find yourself in a state of labeling confusion, here are the facts recently confirmed to GFWD by USDA on March 11th and 12th, 2019.

1. ALL ingredients must be declared by their “common or usual name” in foods regulated by the USDA.

2. Certain ingredients can be declared collectively, such as flavoring. BUT protein-containing ingredients must be declared by their “common or usual name.” They can’t be “hidden” under collective terms like “flavoring.” 

3. When an ingredient is a single component ingredient (i.e., not comprised of multiple sub-ingredients) such as starch, modified food starch, dextrin, etc., the source of the ingredient isn’t required to be declared. This is true even when wheat is the source (although declaring wheat because it is an allergen is encouraged on a voluntary basis by USDA).

4. When a meat or poultry product is formulated with a multi-ingredient component (e.g., soy sauce), the ingredients of the component need to be carried through to the ingredients statement of the product. 

5. IF the company is voluntarily adding a FALCPA allergen statement, it needs to follow FDA’s requirements that would provide for listing allergens, including wheat in parenthesis after the ingredient or in a Contains statement after the ingredients list.

6. USDA estimates that 80% to 90% of manufacturers under the labeling jurisdiction of USDA voluntarily label allergens.

So, armed with the above information let’s look at two examples. Remember, these products are regulated by USDA (you can tell by the mark of inspection or the egg products shield) and are not labeled gluten-free. Different rules apply to FDA-regulated foods (e.g., for FDA-regulated foods, if an ingredient contains wheat, this must be declared on the food label).

Whole Chicken

Includes the statement, “Contains up to 10% chicken broth, carrageenan, sea salt.”

If you come across the ingredient “chicken broth” in a food that is under the labeling jurisdiction of the USDA (e.g., whole chicken) and there is no sub-ingredient list, this is because there are no sub-ingredients in the chicken broth. The ingredient is basically chicken water. If the broth has other component ingredients added to it (e.g., thyme, salt, etc.) these will be included in a sub-ingredients list.

Pork Carnitas

Ingredients include “orange juice powder (orange juice solids, maltodextrin)” and there is no Contains statement.

If you come across the ingredients starch, modified food starch, dextrin or any of the starch hydrolysates (e.g., maltodextrin, glucose syrup) in an ingredients list and there is no indication that the manufacturer is voluntarily following FALCPA (i.e., there is no Contains statement or allergens listed in a parenthetical after any of the ingredients), there is no way to know the source of the ingredient other than contacting the manufacturer.

Important: While maltodextrin and glucose syrup can be made from wheat starch, these ingredients are typically made from cornstarch. They are considered gluten-free regardless of starch source. Wheat starch and wheat starch hydrolysates may be included in foods labeled gluten-free provided that use of the ingredient does not cause the food product to contain a level of gluten at or above 20 ppm.

Photos posted with permission

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Comment (1)

  • Jean
    Reply

    Tricia –
    Thanks for sharing this information. It is a lot to check out when shopping. Just wish the FDA and USDA had the same rules and regulations that are clear and concise including the drug companies.

    March 24, 2019 at 4:54 pm

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