Latin Names for Food Allergens & Ingredients

Cosmetics may contain Latin names for ingredients. Kathrin Ziegler/Taxi/Getty Images

Are you up on your Latin? Can you translate ovum, lac, and triticum vulgare?

In the world of food allergies and ingredient labels, these words translate to egg, milk, and wheat, respectively.

Reading a food ingredient label is one of the basic skills with which all people having a food allergy should be proficient. But more and more, the ingredient list can be a complicated list of foreign words and hidden ingredient terms you will want your high school Latin dictionary and trusty google app to help you translate and decode.

The ingredient label on a product will state what is in the food, in order of its weight, with the heaviest ingredients listed first. On most product packages, and according to the FALCPA (Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act), you will find the 8 common food allergens listed along with a statement that highlights any potential allergens contained in the product itself, from specific statements that indicate "contains" milk, egg, soy, wheat, or other allergen, to “may contain” statements that indicate a product was processed with potential allergens, or cross-contaminated.

Recognizing words that may indicate an allergen is present in a product--either food or non-food, like cosmetics or sunscreen-- is essential to your health, and safety from an allergic reaction.

Sometimes, though, when you look at the ingredient label it can be confusing, especially if there are words that appear to be written in a foreign language.

As is the case of cosmetics, lotions, powders, shampoo, and other non-food items, you may find the following Latin words on ingredient labels. 

If you're a world traveler, or an embracer of European products, you may see more ingredients listed by their Latin words. And you’ll want to know what they mean.

Here are some common food ingredients and their Latin translation:

Almond (sweet): Prunus dulcis. You may also see variations such as prunus amygdalus dulcis.

Almond (bitter): Prunus amara. You may also see variations such as prunus amygdalus amara.

Avocado: Persea gratissima

Apple: Malus domestica

Apricot: Prunus armeniaca

Avocado: Persea americana, Persea gratissima

Banana: Musa sapientum. Variations may include musa paradisiacal, musa acuminate, musa balbisiana, musa basjoo or musa nana.

Barley: Hordeum vulgare

Bell Pepper: Capsicum annuum

Brazil Nut: Bertholletia excels

Buckwheat: Fagopyrum esculentum

Cashew: Anacardium occidentale

Celery: Apium graveolens

Chestnut: Castanea sativa. Variations may include castanea sylva or castanea crenata.

Chickpea: Cicer arietinum

Coconut: Cocus nucifera

Corn (maize): Zea mays

Crab: Castanea sativa

Egg: Ovum

Fish liver oil: Piscum iecur

Hazelnut: Corylus rostrata. Variations may include corylus americana or corylus avellana

Kiwi fruit: Actinidia chinensis. Variations may include actinidia deliciosa

Lobster: Homarus americanus

Lupin: Lupinus albus. Variations may include lupinus luteus, lupines texensis or lupines subcarnosus.

Macadamia: Macadamia ternifolia. Variations may include macadamia integrifolia.

Maize (corn): Zea mays

Mango: Mangifera indica

Milk: Lac

Mustard: Brassica alba. Variations may include brassica nigra or brassica juncea.

Oat: Avena sativa. Variations may include avena strigosa.

Peach: Prunus persica

Pecan: Carya illinoinensis

Peanut: Arachis hypogaea

Pine Nut: Pinus pinea

Pistachio: Pistacia vera. Variations may include pistacia manshurica.

Rice: Oryza sativa

Rye: Secale cereal

Sesame: Sesamum indicum

Shea: Vitellaria paradoxa (Butyrospermum parkii)

Soya: Glycine soja. Variations may include glycine max.

Squid: Todarodes pacificus

Sunflower: Helianthus annuus

Tomato: Lycopersicon esculentum

Walnut: Juglans regia. Variations include juglans nigra

Wheat: Triticum vulgare

Whey Protein: Lactis proteinum


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