Food allergens

Some customers must avoid a certain food for medical reasons. Learn about food allergies, avoiding cross contact, and keeping ingredient lists so customers can avoid certain foods.

Food allergy survey

If you are a food worker or manager, please take our survey.


A food allergy triggers an allergic reaction when someone’s immune system reacts to certain proteins in food.  

Food allergic reactions range from mild to severe: 

  • Mild to moderate symptoms such as:
    • Hives
    • Swelling of the face or mouth
  • Severe, life-threatening symptoms may involve:
    • Difficult breathing
    • Rapid pulse
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Repetitive vomiting

Severe food allergy reactions are often called anaphylaxis. 

For people living with food allergies, a tiny amount of a food allergen can trigger a reaction.

Ingredient lists and food labeling are important to customers who must avoid a specific ingredient for medical reasons.

The nine major food allergens displayed in a circle: peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, eggs, milk, wheat and soy.

Major food allergens

On Jan. 1, 2023, sesame became the ninth major food allergen in the U.S.

Allergen labeling is required for packaged food products that contain any of these ingredients.  

Major food allergens must be identified by name in the ingredient list. This must include proteins derived from a major food allergen. 

The nine major food allergens are: 

  • Crustacean shellfish 
  • Eggs 
  • Fish 
  • Milk
  • Peanuts 
  • Sesame
  • Soy
  • Tree nuts 
  • Wheat


Food allergen training

We offer free food allergen training to food businesses in Minneapolis. 

Learn more and request free voucher codes on our food handler training page

Food allergen safety tips

Tips for all staff

Prepare with care

Food workers play an important role in keeping customers will food allergies safe. 

Take food allergies seriously.

Trace amounts of allergens can trigger an allergic reaction.

You should know:

  • The 9 major food allergens
  • Where to find the list of ingredients for all recipes 
  • How to prevent cross-contact with allergens 
  • Cooking does not kill allergens


Tips for back-of-house staff

Allergen free food order

  • Pay extra attention to orders flagged for food allergies 
  • Wash hands and change gloves when preparing allergy-free meals 
  • Always use clean and sanitized food contact surfaces 
  • Follow safe food preparation procedures to avoid cross-contact with allergens 
  • Tell front-of-house team which dishes are allergen free for service to the table 
  • Give allergen free food items directly to server or to customer instead of setting the food item on the expo shelf

Returned food 

  • If a food item is returned to the kitchen for an allergen reason, always remake the item
  • Do not try to remove an allergen and send the food back

Labeling and Storing

  • Store all major food allergens separately in sealed and labeled containers
  • Know the ingredients, including allergens, in garnishes, toppings, sauces, and dressings 

Cooking food 

  • Update the ingredient list kept onsite when recipes change

Tips for front-of-house staff

Customer communication

  • Listen carefully to customer requests. Repeat back the food allergy requests to the customer.
  • Help customers in finding menu items that do not include certain allergens, or that can be made without allergens
  • Answer customer questions about food allergens honestly. If you don’t know, don’t guess. 
  • Share cross-contact risks (if any) with customers who have food allergies
  • Always let the customer make their own informed decision

Serving allergen free food

  • Clearly communicate customer allergy information to the kitchen staff
  • Take allergen-free orders to the table separately as soon as they are ready
  • Follow your business’s food safety allergen plan on when to tell your manager about a customer’s food allergy questions 

Tips for managers

Communicate effectively about allergens with customers
and staff.


  • Include allergies in your food safety plan.
  • Assign a person to be responsible for your food allergen management plan
  • Train staff on washing hands and changing gloves when preparing allergen-free foods
  • Implement best practices to avoid cross-contact contamination including proper cleaning and sanitizing
  • Train staff what to do if a customer has a severe allergic reaction during a meal
  • Display food allergen signs, posters or flyers for staff

Menu items 

  • Keep onsite accurate recipes listing all ingredients 
  • Ask customers to tell their server if they have a food allergy. 
  • Provide allergen information for your customers. Consider putting it on your menu.

Labeling and Storage

  • Accurately label all prepackaged foods for self-service with ingredients and major food allergens 
  • Store bulk ingredients with major food allergens separately from other foods


The label on a food package tells consumers exactly what is inside the package. 

Keep labels 

Businesses should keep the ingredient list from the label of food items purchased in a

  • Package
  • Bag
  • Box
  • Can
  • Bottle


Examples: packaged buns from a bakery, boxed pasta, prepared sauces, etc. 

Keep your recipes in a centralized location to be able to answer ingredient and allergen questions from your customers. 

Label items you package

If you prepare and package food items for self-service, you must label the items.

Food is packaged if the food business:

  • Bottles, cans, cartons, wraps or bags the product
  • Makes the product available for self-service

Allergy labeling requirements

Apply to:

  • Retail and food service businesses that package, label and offer products for human consumption

Does not apply to:

  • Foods placed in a wrapper or container following a customer’s order at the point of purchase

Identify food allergens on your label by either: 

  • Listing the common or usual name of the food source, followed by the name of the allergen in parentheses. Examples:
    • Flour (wheat)
    • Whey (milk)
  • After the ingredient list, place the word “Contains:” followed by the food allergen. Example:
    • Contains: wheat, milk


  • For tree nuts, declare the specific type of nut
    Examples: almonds, coconut, pecans
  • For fish or crustacean shellfish, declare the species
    Examples: walleye, shrimp, lobster 

Request accessible format

If you need help with this information, please email 311, or call 311 or 612-673-3000.

Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use.

Contact us

Environmental Health

Minneapolis Health Department




Public Service Center
505 Fourth Ave S, Room 520
Minneapolis, MN 55415

Minneapolis 311


Office hours

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Monday – Friday