Healthy living

Understanding food labels for allergies

The current Food Standards Code (external site) requires that the most common allergens must be declared on the food label if they are present in a food, even if present in only small amounts. Common allergens include: 

  • peanuts
  • example of a label on food packaging disclosing common allergen ingredients
  • tree nuts, for example:
    • cashews
    • almonds
    • walnuts
  • shellfish
  • fish
  • cow’s milk
  • eggs
  • sesame
  • soybean. Example of how food allergens are often declared on a food label.

While gluten (not wheat) must also be declared on the label, you need to be careful to avoid all wheat ingredients (not just gluten) if you have a wheat allergy.

If a severe health risk is posed by an allergen, the Food Standards Code also requires a warning statement on food packaging. For example, a food containing the bee product royal jelly may cause severe allergic reactions, particularly if you have asthma or an allergy.

What about precautionary allergen statements?

Some labels include “may contain (allergen)” statements, for example, may contain traces of peanuts and tree nuts.

Manufacturers may add these precautionary statements to food labels if there may be traces of the allergen present. This may be due to shared equipment or cross contamination in the handling or storage of ingredients.

It is important to note that precautionary allergen statements are voluntary (external site).

Some individuals are extremely sensitive and even trace amounts can cause allergic reactions.

If a precautionary allergen statement is used, schools and child care services should not give the food to students with a known allergy to that food, unless permission has been given by the parent or guardian.

Ingredients to avoid

Please note: This is not a complete or comprehensive list of ingredients to avoid but is intended as a helpful aid. It is not meant to replace medical advice.

Allergic to egg
  • albumen
  • apovitellin
  • avidin
  • binder
  • dried eggs
  • egg
  • egg solids
  • egg substitutes (some)
  • egg white
  • egg white solids
  • egg yolk
  • flovoproteins,
  • glaze (on baked goods)
  • globulin
  • imitation egg product
  • livetin
  • lysozyme
  • meringue mix
  • ovalbumin
  • ovglycoprotein
  • ovomucoid
  • ovomuxiod
  • powdered egg.
Allergic to milk
  • ammonium caseinate
  • butter/butter fat
  • calcium caseinate
  • casein
  • casein hydrolysate
  • caseinates
  • cheese
  • cream
  • cultured buttermilk
  • curds
  • delactosed whey
  • ghee
  • hydrolysed casein
  • hydrolysed whey
  • imitation milk
  • lactalbumin
  • lactalbumin phosphate
  • lacto acidophilus
  • magnesium caseinate
  • malted milk
  • milk
  • nougat
  • skim milk
  • potassium caseinate
  • protein hydrolysate
  • rennet
  • sodium caseinate
  • sweet whey
  • whey protein
  • whey solids
  • whey/whey powder
  • whitener
  • yoghurt. 

Any product containing the word milk from an animal source must be avoided, for example goat milk.

Note: Lactose does not normally contain the protein that causes reactions, but there may be a risk of contamination with milk protein. Lactose found in medication is generally safe.

Allergic to peanut
  • arachis oil
  • beer nuts
  • goober nuts
  • groundnuts
  • mandelonas
  • mixed nuts
  • monkey nuts
  • Nu-nuts
  • nut pieces
  • nutmeat
  • peanut
  • peanut butter
  • peanut oil (cold pressed, expelled or extruded)
  • peanut sprouts.

Any products containing peanut or peanut derivatives must be avoided, for example:

  • peanut flour
  • sodium peanutate
  • peanutamide.
Allergic to sesame
  • benne
  • benniseed
  • gingelly seeds
  • sesame
  • sesame seed
  • sesarmol
  • sesomolina
  • sim sim
  • tahina
  • tahini
  • til.
Allergic to soy
  • bean curd
  • endamame
  • hydrolysed plant protein
  • hydrolysed soy protein
  • hydrolysed vegetable protein
  • miso
  • natto
  • okara
  • soja
  • soy
  • soya
  • soyabean
  • soybean
  • tamri
  • tempeh
  • textured vegetable protein
  • tofu
  • yuba. 
Allergic to tree nuts
  • almonds
  • artificial nuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • caponata
  • cashews
  • gianduja (a nut mix)
  • hazelnuts/filberts
  • hickory nuts
  • Indian nuts
  • macadamia nuts
  • marzipan/almond paste
  • non-gai nuts
  • natural nut extract
  • pecans/mashuga nuts
  • pine nuts
  • pistachios
  • pralines
  • shea nuts
  • walnuts.

Any food containing nut or nut derivatives must be avoided, for example:

  • nut butters
  • nut meal
  • nut oil.

Pine nuts are also known as:

  • pinyon
  • pignoli
  • pignollia
  • pinon
  • pignon.
Allergic to wheat
  • bran
  • breadcrumbs
  • bulgar
  • couscous
  • cracker meal
  • farina
  • flour
  • gluten
  • kamut
  • matzoh
  • pasta
  • seitan
  • semolina
  • spelt
  • tabouleh
  • triticale
  • wheat
  • whole wheat berries.

Examples of wheat include:

  • bran
  • germ
  • flakes
  • sprouts
  • cornflour.

Examples of flour include:

  • all-purpose
  • bread
  • durum
  • cake
  • enriched
  • high gluten
  • high protein instant
  • multigrain
  • pastry
  • plain
  • self-raising
  • soft wheat
  • steel ground
  • stone ground
  • whole meal
  • whole wheat. 

This information has been provided by Anaphylaxis Australia Inc. (external site)

More information:

Remember

  • Most common allergens must be declared on the food label if they are included as an ingredient in a food.
  • Manufacturers may add precautionary allergen statements to food labels
  • Precautionary allergen statements are voluntary.
  • Some individuals are extremely sensitive and even trace amounts of a food can cause allergic reactions including anaphylaxis. 

Acknowledgements

Child and Adolescent Health Service


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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