Health Canada proposes allergen labeling for mustard

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Allergy, Asthma

Health Canada has said it is developing new allergen labeling regulations, adding mustard as a priority allergen under proposals released by the agency on Monday.

Health Canada said the change in labeling regulation comes as a result of comments from the public, as well as discussions with the food industry and health groups - but onion and garlic will not require labeling despite some calls for such a move, it said.

It published a proposal for regulatory amendments in the Canada Gazette in July last year and said it received more than 140 comments up to December 2008.

The agency estimates that one in six adults and one in four children suffers from a food allergy, while about one in 100 Canadians suffers from celiac disease, an autoimmune disease triggered by gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye, barley and spelt.

Currently, foods and beverages sold in Canada must carry warning labels if they contain any of the nine most common allergens. This list includes peanuts, eggs, milk, tree nuts, wheat, soy, sesame seeds, seafood, and sulfites.

The new regulatory proposal adds mustard, and also removes the proposed exemptions for fining agents and wax coatings on the labels of pre-packaged foods.

Marilyn Allen, a consultant on the issues of food allergies and anaphylaxis for Anaphylaxis Canada, told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “It is the stand of Anaphylaxis Canada to protect any individuals who have allergic reactions... [Mustard] has been a very difficult one for those folks to avoid.”

She explained that if mustard is a primary ingredient, it already has to be listed on a products ingredient label, but problems arise with flavorings, for example, that do not have to list all their potential allergens separately.

“Where it’s a really big concern is where it’s a component…It may not be a prevalence issue but it’s very, very difficult to ferret that one out.”

However, she said that because mustard is already a prioritized allergen for food labeling in Europe, major food companies have already been keeping an eye on mustard in their products.

“That will already be part of their due diligence​,” she said. “Many companies have been watching this one for years because of exporting to the EU.”

But she said there could be more of an issue on an agricultural level.

“Where I think there could be a problem is mustard getting mixed in with grains. That would be my only concern.”

Allen said that Anaphylaxis Canada does not have figures on how many Canadians suffer from mustard allergy.

Health Canada said its goal is to publish the updated regulations in the Canada Gazette in the spring of 2010.

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