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Food Allergy

Canada’s Food Label Regs Pass!

From the Allergic Living archives.

Over a decade in the making, Canadian regulations requiring that 11 top allergens and gluten are clearly labeled on food and beverages finally passed on February 16, 2011.

At an Ottawa grocery store, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq made the announcement on Feb. 14, 2011, a Valentine’s gift to all those in the food allergy and celiac communities who had lobbied tirelessly for the regulations, which now become part of the Food and Drugs Act.

While the food regulations will be an enormous improvement for those looking for allergy-safe and gluten-free foods, there was one major disappointment for the communities and the groups that represent them.

At the last minute, beer has been exempted from the regulations. While new negotiations for beer ingredient listings will be held, a Health Canada official would only say that the timeline on starting discussions is “soon”.

“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,” Aglukkaq said at the media conference.

“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.”

When asked about the government’s exemption for brewers, Aglukkaq focused on the children at risk of anaphylaxis. “I think if your child is drinking beer, you’ve got other issues to worry about,” she said making light of the point. Then she added: “This is about children; this is about food allergies.”

Anaphylaxis Canada said in a statement that it was both pleased to see the food regulations finally pass and “very disappointed” by the last-minute exemption for the beer companies.

Janet Dalziel, the president of the Canadian Celiac Association told CTV’s Power Play program that because of the beer exemption, her organization was “celebrating today with modified rapture, but we are celebrating.”

Food and beverage makers will have until Aug. 4, 2012 to change packaging so that product labels comply with the new regulations on ingredient listing. The top 11 allergens that must now be apparently shown on labels are: peanuts, tree nuts, milk/dairy, egg, shellfish, fish, wheat, soy, sesame, mustard and sulphites.

In past, food labels could show scientific terms (albumin for egg; caseinate for milk) or vague terms such as “natural flavours” for soy or “spices” for sesame or mustard. For those with celiac disease, gluten must now be listed, and the regulations require lesser known gluten-containing grains like spelt and kamut to be followed by the word “wheat” in brackets to avoid consumer confusion.

See also: Gwen Smith blog post “No Regs for the Weary“.

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