Food Allergy Labeling

If you or a member of your family has a food allergy, you’re used to carefully checking food labels.  In the US, the FDA requires food manufacturers to list not just the ingredients, but whether any of the eight most common food allergens are present.  These eight — milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat — account for about 90% of all allergic reactions.  There are apparently some exceptions to the law, but most foods do carry these labels now.

This labeling is a godsend for anyone dealing with food allergies, as it’s almost impossible for the lay person to know the names of all the subcomponents of a given substance.  For example, when my husband Dave was diagnosed with a true milk allergy (not lactose intolerance), I was given a list of over 30 items watch for, including things such as:

  • Beta-lactoglobulin
  • Casein
  • Caseinate (ammonium caseinate, calcium caseinate, magnesium caseinate, potassium caseinate, and sodium caseinate)
  • Delactosed or demineralized whey
  • Whey and whey protein concentrate

Yes, the law requiring simple labeling is much better!  Not only is it helpful for people with food allergies, but it’s also a huge help if you are having someone with food allergies for a visit.  When we went to visit Denis and LaDonna on Beagle Knot, for example, this labeling made it so much easier for her to provision items that wouldn’t cause problems for Dave.  I just sent her a photo of this type of label and told her to watch for things listing milk.

But what about travel in foreign countries?  Do I have to learn a similar list in a foreign language??

The good news is that most countries now have some sort of simple labeling requirement . . . maybe not identical to the US labeling, but sufficient so that you only need to know the primary name of what you are allergic to.  Here’s an example from a cookie package I picked up on our recent trip to Mexico:

Have a food allergy and thinking of cruising outside your home country? Wondering how you'll figure out labels in a foreign language? Labeling laws in most countries make it a little easier.

Gluten (the word is the same in Spanish) is shown as an ingredient, as is soy (soya).  For those who are highly allergic, the last two lines specify that the cookies were made in a plant where other products contain milk (leche), eggs (huevo), nuez (nuts), soy (soya) and coconut (coco).

While you still have to carefully read labels, this makes it MUCH easier to cruise with food allergies in countries where you don’t speak the language fluently.  It’s still hard to get complete information in restaurants and in places like bakeries where labeling is generally not required, but this is a huge step in the right direction.

I'd like to know about...

Explore more

Want weekly tidbits of cruising information? Sign up for The Boat Galley's free weekly newsletter. You'll get the newest articles and podcasts as well as a few relevant older articles that you may have missed.

Do you find The Boat Galley useful? You can support the site when you buy from Amazon by using the links on this site or clicking below. No extra cost for you!

  • Lisa Hansen
    Posted at 21 May 2013 Reply

    Loved this article. Everyone on Molly J, a CAL 2-46 has gluten sensitivity and milk is a huge ‘no-no’ since a large proportion of celiac patients and non-celiac gluten sensitive patients have a reaction to milk (or cross react with other foods like yeast, coffee, eggs, etc.) -Lisa

  • Rick Garvin
    Posted at 27 December 2015 Reply

    Thanks for the tip on I didn’t know about them and just saved $3 over Amazon Prime even after shipping.

  • CJ Adams
    Posted at 12 December 2017 Reply

    I appreciated reading this today. Although we are not cruising (still working full time), this topic is always foremost in our minds when we do talk about cruising, since my wife has Celiac disease and must remain Gluten Free to stay healthy, we are always checking labels. Potluck dinners are always scary, since we have no idea what’s in there or was there cross contamination.

Post A Comment