How Are Ingredients Listed on a Product Label?

Food manufacturers are required to list all ingredients in the food on the label. On a product label, the ingredients are listed in order of predominance, with the ingredients used in the greatest amounts first, followed by descending order by those in smaller amounts. The label must list the names of any FDA-certified color additives (example: FD&C Blue No. 1). But some ingredients can be listed collectively as “flavors, spices, artificial flavoring” or in the case of color additives exempt from certification known as “artificial colors” without naming each one.

The first few ingredients should never be sugar, high fructose, or fructose. Here is a short list of some common ingredients that should be avoided/used rarely:

  • Alum
  • Artificial colorings
  • Calcium propionate
  • Carrageenan
  • Casein
  • Caseinogen
  • Collagen
  • Diglycerides/Monoglycerides
  • EDTA
  • Gelatin
  • Glycerin
  • Hydrogenated vegetable oils
  • Hydrolysates
  • Hydrolyzed oat flour
  • Hydrolyzed plant protein
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
  • Lactic acid
  • Lactose
  • Monodiglycerides
  • Monosodium glutamate
  • Rennin
  • Sodium caseinate
  • Sodium nitrate
  • Sulfites
  • Vegetable oils

Ingredients for all foods must be listed on the food label, including standardized foods. The label must also list the FDA-certified color additives by name. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. Specific ingredient information, such as the source of the protein, also is included. This allows people to avoid substances to which they are allergic or sensitive, or for religious or cultural reasons.

As of January 2006, food manufacturers also must disclose in plain language whether products contain any of the top eight food allergens. While numerous foods have been identified as sources of allergic reactions, 90 percent of the allergic reactions associated with foods are caused by one of eight foods: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat and soy.

Manufacturers have two options for declaring the presence of these food substances in foods. One option is to provide a “contains” statement next to the ingredient list that identifies the types of allergenic ingredients contained in the product; for example, “contains milk and wheat.” The second option is to place the food source in parentheses next to ingredients derived from one of the eight potential offending foods classes, such as sodium caseinate (milk), albumin (egg).



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