(NEXSTAR) – A viral TikTok has some people taking a closer look at their pantry after a video pointed out something fishy about the nutrition labels on Walmart’s generic food items.
The video zooms in on three Great Value products: marshmallows, pancake syrup and boxed mashed potatoes. Great Value is Walmart’s generic retail brand.
Near the nutrition facts and ingredients on each package is something out of place. On the marshmallows bag is a warning that reads “MAY CONTAIN TRACES OF TILAPIA.” A similar disclaimer on the syrup bottle says it may contain traces of anchovies.
On the mashed potatoes box, there are even more fish options: anchovies, perch, trout, whitefish and clams.
Why do so many of these products – which you’d think shouldn’t contain any fish at all – display such warnings?
Walmart didn’t respond to Nexstar’s requests for comment, but the Food and Drug Administration offers some reasonable explanations.
A federal law, the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, requires manufacturers to disclose when packaged foods contain a “major food allergen,” the FDA explains.
The law names nine major allergens that needs to be identified, and the list includes fish and shellfish.
Some manufacturers choose to go even further, and optionally disclose if a food was manufactured near one of the major allergens.
“A manufacturer might use the same equipment to make different products,” the FDA says. “Even after cleaning this equipment, a small amount of an allergen (such as peanuts) that was used to make one product (such as cookies) may become part of another product (such as crackers).”
So, out of an abundance of caution for those with severe allergies, that company may put a warning like “may contain peanuts” or “produced in a facility with peanuts” on the product because they can’t guarantee there was no cross-contamination.
The same goes for fish and shellfish, since they are major allergens.
It’s not just Walmart who prints these types of warnings on their labels. If you take a closer look at your pantry staples, you may find similar disclaimers on all types of prepared foods.