Calls for stricter allergen labels in Canada

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food allergy, Allergy, Health canada

The proposed new regulations governing allergen labeling on packaged foods in Canada do not go far enough and need to be strengthened, according to an association of dieticians.

Steps are being taken by Health Canada to amend the current Food and Drug Regulations for enhanced labeling of food allergen, gluten sources and added sulphites on packaged foods.

The government department has already called on industry to take proactive steps to improve the labeling of food allergens and gluten sources until the regulatory amendments proposed are enacted.

However, the Dietitians of Canada (DC), which represents almost 6000 dietitians nation-wide, said that the proposed changes should be stronger.

Lynda Corby, director of public affairs for DC, said: “While we are supportive of many of the proposed changes to the regulations, we are advocating for several further improvements.”

The improvements they suggest include speeding up the time-line to implement precautionary “may contain”​ allergen labeling.

The DC said: “As the allergen labeling regulations under review do not address precautionary allergen labeling, we are urging Health Canada to address this additional key element quickly to more fully enhance the health, safety and quality of life of individuals with food allergies and intolerances.”

They also want consumer testing of a separate labeling statement highlighting “Allergy and Food Intolerance” ​and an​extension of sulphite alerts to fresh produce.

Others points include making sure that allergen labeling is legible and providing educational resources in plain language accessible on the web.

It is estimated that up to six per cent of young children, along with three to four per cent of adults suffer from food allergies, and nearly one per cent of the population is affected by celiac disease, a serious sensitivity to gluten

More than 170 foods have been identified as allergens, including fruits, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, mollusks, peas, lentils, and beans other than green beans.

Proposed changes

Canada’s current Food and Drug Regulations require that ingredients of food products be declared on the labels of most prepackaged foods. However, components of certain ingredients are exempted from declaration in the list of ingredients.

The improved regulations would require that manufacturers declare all food allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites on labels of prepackaged foods.

The regulations would also detail exactly how these allergens, glutens and sulphites are to be listed on food labels.

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