HOW TO: Find Allergy-Friendly Food in Japan

Today I'm happy to share with you this fabulously helpful post from Kirsten Adachi of Cooking in Japan. If you have food allergies, and you're living in or moving to Japan, Kirsten has explained, with translations and phrases, everything you need to know. -Ashley


A while ago someone on Twitter asked about soy free miso and was referred to me for help. After a quick Google search in Japanese I found out that you can buy miso (and soy sauce) made from quinoa. This piqued my interest despite not having any food allergies myself -- just sensitivities to things I don’t really like anyway (dairy and peanuts). I thought that this would be a perfect topic for Surviving in Japan.
Info source: Report from Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (2002, 2005)Chart translated from here.

Food Allergens Required to be Labeled   材料7品目 (zairyou nana hinmoku)

allergies, Japan, food
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If you look through food allergy information in Japan you will come across a list of seven over and over again. These are: eggs, milk, wheat, buckwheat, peanuts, shrimp and crab. Products containing these ingredients are required to be labeled.

Why these seven? According to the allergy handbook produced by the Japan Consumer Affairs Agency these seven allergens can produce the severest reactions (think anaphylactic shock). In Japan eggs, milk and wheat make up 70% of food allergies.

The following is a list of the seven food allergens and how they will be labeled. I have included readings in brackets in the ‘Common Label’ column. Unless otherwise noted, the readings in the ‘Also Seen As’ column are the same.

Allergen Common Label Also Seen As
Eggs  (たまご, tamago)たまご,  鶏卵 (keiran/hen’s egg)
あひる卵 (ahiruran/duck’s egg)
うずら卵 (uzuraran/Japanese quail egg)
タマゴ (tamago)
玉子 (tamago)
エッグ (eggu)
Dairy  乳 (ちち, chichi) 生乳 (seinyuu, raw milk)
牛乳 (gyuunyuu, cow’s milk)
特別牛乳 (tokubetsu gyuunyuu, special cow’s milk)
部分脱脂乳 (bubundasshinyuu, partially skimmed milk)
加工乳 (kakounyuu, processed milk)
クリーム(乳製品) (kuriimu, cream)
バター (bataa, butter)
バターオイル (bataaoiru, butter oil)
チーズ (chiizu, cheese)
濃縮ホエイ(乳製品)(noushukuhoei, concentrated whey)
アイスクリーム類 (aisu kuriimu rui, ice cream class)
濃縮乳 (noushukunyuu, evaporated milk)
脱脂濃縮乳 (dashinoushukunyuu, fat free evaporated milk)
無糖れん乳 (mutourennyuu, sugar free condensed milk)
無糖脱脂れん乳 (mutoudasshirennyuu, sugar free, fat free condensed milk)
加糖れん乳 (katourennyuu, sweetened condensed milk)
加糖脱脂れん乳 (katoudasshirennyuu, sweetened fat free condensed milk)
全粉乳 (zenfunnyuu, whole milk powder)
脱脂粉乳 (dasshifunnyuu, powdered skim milk)
クリームパウダー(乳製品) (kuriimupaidaa, cream powder)
ホエイパウダー(乳製品) (hoeipaudaa, whey powder)
たんぱく質濃縮ホエイパウダー(乳製品) (tanpakushitsu noushuku hoeipaudaa, concentrated whey protein powder)
バターミルクパウダー (bataa miruku paudaa, buttermilk powder)
加糖粉乳 (katoufunnyuu, sweetened powdered milk)
調製粉乳 (chouseifunnyuu, baby formula)
はっ酵乳 (hakkounyuu, fermented milk)
乳酸菌飲料 (nyuusannkinninryou, fermented milk beverage)
乳飲料 (nyuuinryou, milk beverage)
Wheat  小麦 (こむぎ, komugi)こむぎ, コムギ
Buckwheat そば (soba)ソバ
Peanuts  落花生 (らっかせい, rakkasei)ピーナッツ (pinattsu)
Shrimp えび (ebi) 海老, エビ
Crab かに (kani) 蟹,  カニ

18 Food Allergens Recommended for Labeling

Food labels are not required to include allergy information for the following group but it is recommended. Pretty much all children’s products are labeled and some adult products are. The curry roux box in my cupboard mentions pork as a trace ingredient.

Allergen Common Label Also Seen As
Abalone あわび  (awabi)アワビ
Orange オレンジ (orenji)
Walnuts くるみ  (kurumi)クルミ
Soy beans 大豆  (daizu)だいず, ダイズ
Matsutake Mushroom まつたけ (matsutake)松茸, マツタケ
Appleりんご  (ringo) リンゴ,  アップル (appuru)
Gelatinゼラチン  (zerachin)
Banana バナナ (banana)
Peach もも (momo)桃,  モモ,  ピーチ (piichi)
Japanese Yam やまいも (yamaimo)山芋,  ヤマイモ,  山いも
豚肉  (butaniku)
たにく,  豚にく,  ぶた肉,  豚,  ポーク (pooku)
Chicken鶏肉  (toriniku) とりにく, 鳥 (tori),  鶏 (tori), とり肉, とり (tori),  鳥肉、チキン (chikin)
Mackerelさば (saba) 鯖, サバ
Salmon鮭 (sake)、サケ、サーモン (saamon)、しゃけ (shake)、シャケ(shake) 鮭フレーク (sake fureeku), 焼鮭 (yakisake), スモークサーモン (sumooku saamon)
Kiwi fruit
キウイフルーツ (kiui furuutsu)

キウイジャム (kiui jamu)
牛肉 (ぎゅうにく, gyuuniku)
牛脂 (gyuushi), ビーフコロッケ (biifu rokke), 牛スジ (gyuu suji)
Squid いか (ika), イカ山芋,  ヤマイモ,  山いも
Salmon roeいくら(ikura),  イクラ、スジコ (sujiko)、すじこ(sujiko) いくら醤油漬け (ikura shouyu tzuke)


The allergy handbook offers labeling guidelines for products containing allergens and products that have possibly come in contact with allergens. Look for these phrases and terms in the ingredients list (or below). The allergens are in red and the grammar structure is in black.

だいず を ふくむ
Daizu wo fukumu

Contains traces of soy beans

This will be in brackets beside the ingredient in the ingredient list.

だいず ゆらい
Daizu yurai
Made from soy beans

Will be in brackets beside any ingredient that was made from soy beans.
本製品の製造ラインでは,  落花生を使用した製品も製造しています。
ほんせいひん の せいぞう では、らっかせい を しようした せいひん も せいぞうしています。
Honseihin no seizou rain deha, rakkasei wo shiyoushita seihin mo seizou shiteimasu.
Made in a factory that produces products that contain peanuts

This will be in sentence form on the package somewhere near the ingredients list.
とうもろこしの輸送設備等は大豆, 小麦の輸送にも使用しています
とうもろこし の ゆぞうせつびとう は だいず、こむぎ の ゆぞう にも しようしています。
Toumorokoshi no yuzou setsutou ha daizu, komugi no yuzou ni mo shiyoushiteimasu.
This corn was transported using equipment that is also used to transport soy and wheat.

This will be in sentence form on the package somewhere near the ingredients list.

げんざいりょう の いちぶ に だいず を ふくむ
Genzairyou no ichibu ni daizu wo fukumu.

Raw materials contain traces of soy.

This will be in sentence form on the package somewhere near the ingredients list.

What types of products are labeled?

1. Prepackaged processed food (chips, orange juice cartons, cookies, etc.)
2. Canned or Jarred processed food (jam, baby food, etc.)

If a product contains a miniscule amount of one of the seven allergens it will be marked; however, if it contains just a few milligrams per kilogram it will not be marked.

What types of products are not labeled?

1. Products that are measured/weighed and packaged at the store when you buy them (bread at a bakery, fast food)
2. Made to order bento boxes (lunch boxes)
3. Small products where the area of the packaging is less than 30cm2 

Note: While large companies have proper allergy labeling, I have noticed that some smaller companies/stores do not. If you don’t see any allergy labeling, it is probably best to err on the side of caution and ask.

Coming soon: I'll explain how to find allergen-free products in Japan. 


Edit: Struggling to understand where and what to look for on the food labels? Check out the ultimate guide to reading Japanese food labels for everything you need to know.

Kirsten Adachi is a Canadian who has lived in Japan for nine years. She writes the recipe bog Cooking in Japan and is a contributor to Being a BroadTwitter: @kirsty_girl  Pinterest: cookinginjapan

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