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Federal Government Strengthens Food Allergen Labelling Regulations

REPOST – (from Feb 14, 2011) Today, the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, the Honourable Denis Lebel, Minister of State (Economic Development Agency of for the Regions of Quebec), along with Rick Dykstra, Member of Parliament for St. Catharines and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and Niagara West-Glanbrook Member of Parliament Dean Allison, announced regulations to strengthen Canada’s labelling of food allergens and gluten sources.

This means that Canadians with food allergies, sensitivities and celiac disease will soon be able to make more informed choices about the foods they buy. The Ministers also unveiled what the food label will now look like.

“Our Government is committed to protecting children and families from dangerous products, and this is clear from the measures we have taken in our new Consumer Product Safety Act,” said Minister Aglukkaq. “All parents want to have confidence in the food they are serving their families, and these changes to food labels will make it easier for parents of children with food allergies to identify potentially harmful, if not fatal, ingredients in foods.”

It is estimated that approximately five to six per cent of young children and three to four per cent of adults suffer from food allergies. Nearly one per cent of the population is affected by celiac disease, for which the consumption of foods containing gluten can lead to long term complications.

“Families across Niagara have told us that clear and accurate food labelling is crucial for the safety of their children”, said Dykstra.  “And by taking these steps, our government is ensuring that parents will have the information they need to make the correct choices for their families.”
The new regulations will require additional labelling and strengthen the labelling requirements to require clearer language and the declaration of otherwise “hidden” allergens, gluten sources, and sulphites.

Because of the complexity of the changes and the shelf-life of foods, industry has been given 18 months to implement the new allergen labelling regulations. The coming into force date is set for August 4, 2012.

Health Canada and the CFIA will continue to work with industry members to ensure that there is a smooth labelling implementation period for foods sold in Canada. Health Canada will continue to update Canadians on the progress of this file as the coming into force date approaches.

[Click Here] to visit Health Canada’s website for details on the final regulatory amendments on labelling regulations for food allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites

[Click Here] to subscribe to receive email notifications for all allergy alerts, visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s recall page

For more information on food allergies, food intolerances, and celiac disease

[Click Here] for Health Canada’s Food Allergy and Intolerances Page

[Click Here] for Health Canada’s Allergen Labelling Page

[Click Here] for Health Canada’s Celiac Disease Page

[Click Here] for CFIA’s Food Allergens Page

[Click Here] for Niagara Anaphylaxis Support and Knowledge (NASK)

[Click Here] for more photos

Backgrounder                                                              February 2011

Changes to Enhanced Allergen Labelling Regulations

Often, avoiding an allergenic food ingredient is the only way for people with food allergies to protect themselves. That is why ingredient labels are one of the most useful tools for allergic Canadians.

The new revised regulations to enhance food allergen labelling will also cover gluten sources, which must be avoided by those with celiac disease, and added sulphites, which must be avoided by those with a sensitivity to sulphites.

The revised regulations will require that manufacturers clearly identify food allergens, gluten sources, and sulphites either in the list of ingredients or at the end of the list of ingredients with the following statement “Contains: . . . ’’. The regulations will also require that manufacturers list components of ingredients if they contain food allergens, gluten sources, or sulphites.  For example, if a prepackaged food contains the ingredient “spices”, that food will be required to list any allergens, gluten sources, or sulphites present in the spices.

The new regulations will benefit Canadians in a number of ways. They will provide a clearer ingredient label so that consumers can better avoid foods that contain the ingredient to which they are allergic or sensitive.

As well, the strengthened labelling regulations will provide manufacturers with clear labelling requirements so that allergens, gluten sources, and sulphites will be labelled in a systematic and consistent manner. These clear requirements are aimed at reducing the number of food recalls and adverse reactions.

The new requirements will notably include:

• Food allergens, gluten sources, and sulphites will need to be labelled in the list of ingredients or in a statement that begins with “Contains:..”;
• The food allergen or gluten source will be written in commonly used words such as (“milk” or “wheat”);
• Mustard seed will be added to the regulatory definition of food allergen;
• Common name for the plant sources of hydrolyzed protein will be declared. For example, the label may indicate soy, or hydrolyzed vegetable protein (soy), rather than just hydrolyzed vegetable protein;
• For the allergen source: spelt and kamut will be declared as wheat;
• Sulphites above 10 ppm will be treated the same as other allergens and use of a separate “Contains” statement will be optional;
• If a food allergen is present in wine and spirits as a result of the use of fining agents from eggs, fish or milk, the allergen source must be shown on the label of the prepackaged product.
• The source of any allergen or gluten present in the wax coating or their compounds would be required to be shown on the label of prepackaged fruits and vegetables.

The regulations will be amended in a phased approach, with most of the regulations published officially today.

The proposed regulatory amendments were published in Part I of the federal government’s official newspaper, the Canada Gazette, in order to seek comments from all stakeholders.  Some changes were made to the proposed regulatory amendments in response to comments received.  For more information on those changes, please visit the Summary of Changes from Canada Gazette, Part I to Canada Gazette, Part II (Link TBD).

Because of the complexity of the changes and the shelf-life of foods, Health Canada has allowed manufacturers 18 months to implement the new labelling regulations. However, the department is encouraging industry to declare allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites to provide Canadians with the information necessary to make informed food choices.

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