Understanding Precautionary Allergen Labeling (PAL) Preferences Among Food Allergy Stakeholders

Ruchi Gupta*, Madeleine Kanaley, Olivia Negris, Anita Roach, Lucy Bilaver

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Food allergy (FA) is an increasing public health concern in the United States, affecting approximately 8% of children and 11% of adults. The United States currently lacks clear requirements for the use of precautionary allergen labeling (PAL) on packaged foods, such as “may contain” or “made on shared equipment.” This lack of specific governmental policy results in inconsistent labeling practices and confusion. Objective: This study aimed to understand current knowledge and preferences for PAL statements among FA stakeholders. Methods: A cross-sectional survey was sent to FA stakeholders. Descriptive statistics and associations from logistic regressions were used to assess respondents' knowledge of PAL policy, shopping habits, and preferences around PAL. Results: Of 3008 respondents, 24.2% were able to correctly answer 4 questions surrounding PAL policies. When asked about their shopping habits, the majority of respondents never purchase products with a “May contain traces of allergen” label (85.5%) in comparison with never purchasing products with a “Good manufacturing practices used to segregate ingredients in a facility that also processes allergen” label (35.0%). Their top preferences for a PAL statement were “Not suitable for people with ‘blank’ allergy” (29.3%) and “May contain” (22.1%). Health care provider discussions around PAL varied and were strongly associated with purchasing behaviors. Conclusions: These results suggest that FA consumers are not aware of PAL policies and make decisions based on the words in the PAL. They prefer having clearer, more specific, and consistent labeling on products, indicating that explicit PAL policies are needed to allow customers to easily identify safe foods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)254-264.e1
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Allergen labeling
  • Food allergen labeling policy
  • Food allergy
  • Pediatric food allergy
  • Precautionary allergen labeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy


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