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News Report: Food Label Update

Comments Reviewed on
Food Label Regulations

Health Canada received more than 140 comments from consumers, allergy groups and manufacturers in regard to the proposed regulations for food allergen labeling.

Dr. Antony Ham Pong, an Ottawa allergist who has been pushing for new rules for more than a decade, says he alone sent eight pages of comments, and Health Canada responded to each one individually and in detail. “My impression is that they are trying to be as thorough as possible,” he says.

Ham Pong notes a number of issues that came up in the comment period are technical in nature, and Health Canada officials will need the help of outside experts to make appropriate decisions, which will take time.

One technical concern Ham Pong raised was on the issue of sulphites, a food additive on the top 10 list of allergy triggers. He is concerned that a difference between how Canada and the United States count the level of sulphites (added vs. formed during processing) may lead to trade issues.
Other comments and suggestions that Health Canada is weighing:

– A process to periodically review the list of priority allergens.
– The manner of declaring allergens. For instance, stating the type of allergen after a specific name is given – i.e.: cashew (tree nut) or halibut (fish).
– A shorter phrase for declaring the presence of an allergen – currently proposed as: “Allergy and Intolerance Information – Contains: ….”
– Directions on how to make the allergy information legible, for example, in bold letters, or using pictures.
– The possible inclusion of other foods as allergens, suggested were mustard seeds, garlic and onions.
– A request for a longer transition period than one year in order to reduce the cost of label changes. –Claire Gagné

See Health Canada’s website for a full outline of the comments received here.

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