Until only a few decades ago, there were no strict guidelines regarding food labels and allergies in Japan. In many cases, it was assumed that common sense directed food choices (given that you knew your allergies), thus oftentimes limiting people with allergies in a big way. Today, however, most restaurants as well as stores in Tokyo offer lists of their food/ingredients and can offer detailed explanations of what foods are allergy-safe from certain ingredients.
The same can also be said for supermarkets. Most food products are labeled by their manufacturers with a list of allergens that are either part of the food or produced in the same factory as the food. The content of these labels is based on government standards and lists ingredients that the foods contain or may have come in contact with, the same as those found overseas.
Unfortunately, as with most food labels in Japan, this information is typically only available in Japanese. But worry not: Here is the information you need, supported with examples of different food labels so that non-Japanese speakers can safely shop — and enjoy — every bit of Japan’s cuisine!
If you aren’t sure whether a given product contains any of the following allergens, print this page, find a clerk at the grocery store and ask “kono shohin ni ○○ ga haiitemasuka?” (この商品に○○が入ってますか？), just to be sure. And if the staff can’t tell you, then you might want to skip that product. So, here they are.
Japan’s Top Allengens
The top seven
This listing will state whether the product contains any of the following ingredients, which are classified as severe allergic-reaction-causing …continue reading