Food allergens

Some customers must avoid a certain food for medical reasons. Learn about keeping ingredient lists and labels so customers can avoid certain foods.


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

Food allergic reactions range from: 

  • Mild symptoms such as hives and lip swelling 
  • Severe, life-threatening symptoms that may involve:
    • Fatal respiratory problems
    • Shock
    • Death

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
  • Avoid foods for religious reasons


Major food allergens 

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

The nine major food allergens are: 

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

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 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 or 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. 


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 and makes it available for self-service. 

Label information

Food package label information must be written in English. 

Here are the parts of a food label: 

  • Food name 
  • Net quantity of contents 
  • Ingredient List, including major food allergens. List all ingredients by their common or usual name. 
    • List all ingredients in descending order (most to least) by weight. If less than 2% by weight, an ingredient can be mentioned at the end of the list, stating “contains 2% or less of (ingredient name).” 
    • Include all sub-ingredients 
      Example: Flour (bleached wheat flour, malt barley, flour, niacin, iron, potassium thiamine, riboflavin) 
    • 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 
    • Include chemical preservatives and food coloring in descending order (most to least) by weight 
  • Business Name and Address 
  • Nutrition Facts 

Identify food allergens on your label by: 

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

Additional resources

Contact us

Health Department




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

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Minneapolis 311


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