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An ingredient is a substance that forms part of a mixture (in a general sense). For example, in cooking, recipes specify which ingredients are used to prepare a specific dish. Many commercial products contain a secret ingredient that is purported to make them better than competing products.
National laws usually require prepared food products to display a list of ingredients, and specifically require that certain additives be listed.
In most developed countries, the law requires that ingredients be listed according to their relative weight in the product. If an ingredient itself consists of more than one ingredient (such as the cookie pieces which are a part of "cookies and cream" flavor ice cream), then that ingredient is listed by what percentage of the total product it occupies, with its own ingredients displayed next to it in brackets.
Should water be listed as an ingredient?
Water added in making a food is considered to be an ingredient. The added water must be identified in the list of ingredients and listed in its descending order of predominance by weight. If all water added during processing is subsequently removed by baking or some other means during processing, water need not be declared as an ingredient.
"INGREDIENTS: Water, Navy Beans, and Salt"
How are spices, natural flavors or artificial flavors declared in ingredient lists?
These may be declared in ingredient lists by using either specific common or usual names or by using the declarations "spices," "flavor" or "natural flavor," or "artificial flavor."
"INGREDIENTS: Apple Slices, Water, Cane Syrup, Corn Syrup, Modified Corn Starch, Spices, Salt, Natural Flavor and Artificial Flavor"
However, products that are spices or spice blends, flavors or colors must list each ingredient by name.
What is a "major food allergen?"
Under FALCPA, a "major food allergen" is an ingredient that is one of the following eight foods or food groups or an ingredient that contains protein derived from one of them:
- Crustacean shellfish
- tree nuts
Although more than 160 foods have been identified to cause food allergies in sensitive individuals, the "major food allergens" account for 90 percent of all food allergies. Allergens other than the major food allergens are not subject to FALCPA labeling requirements.