Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

FDA Hearing Examines Need to Simplify Allergy Warning Labels on Food

Sept. 16, 2008 -- Carefully reading food labels might not be enough to keep food allergy sufferers safe, according to the FDA.

The agency held a public hearing Tuesday on food manufacturers' use of "advisory labeling," which indicates that a product could unintentionally contain trace amounts of an allergen, such as peanuts. Statements like "may contain (allergen)" or "produced on shared equipment that processes (allergen)" are common.

These warnings are voluntary and unregulated, and they may only baffle the consumer who reads them. Another example: "Produced in a facility with an allergy control plan. The possibility of contact with allergenic ingredients has been minimized. May still contain trace amount of (allergen)."

"Advisory warnings are confusing, inconsistent, and do not provide adequate information to make smart and safe decisions," said Scott Mandell, CEO and president of Enjoy Life Natural Brands, which offers gluten-free and allergy-friendly foods.

The FDA said it wants to develop a long-term strategy to help manufacturers use more truthful, clear, and uniform advisory labels. The agency has addressed the inconsistent use of advisory labeling in the past, and different groups have developed some of their own guidelines, but the public hearing represents a push toward a more unified approach.

Demystifying Food Allergy Labels

A 2004 law requires manufacturers to list major allergens used as ingredients in a product, but there is no labeling requirement for separate products that might come into contact with allergens during manufacturing.

Equipment and facilities shared by allergen-containing foods can cause cross-contamination, where trace amounts of an allergen unintentionally end up in a separate product, putting some consumers at risk for allergic reactions. Many choose to avoid these foods altogether, although increased use of vague advisory labels leave consumers with tough decisions to make.

Anne Munoz-Furlong, founder and CEO of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), said there are more than 30 different formulations of advisory labeling, making it impossible to determine which companies use advisories to truthfully represent risks and which companies put the warnings on virtually every product to avoid liability.

"Physicians, parents, and teens are ignoring these 'may contain' statements because they appear on so many products," she said.

Healthy Recipe Finder

Browse our collection of healthy, delicious recipes, from WebMD and Eating Well magazine.

Top searches: Chicken, Chocolate, Salad, Desserts, Soup

Healthy Recipe Finder