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Food Allergy

Anaphylaxis Gets Federal Attention

A motion to raise Canadians’ awareness of anaphylaxis got a significant boost in Parliament last month when it received support from all parties during a debate in the House of Commons.

On March 21, Niagara MP Dean Allison introduced Motion 546 to the House. It argues that the federal government should take greater measures to ensure Canadians with anaphylaxis maintain a high quality of life. “My greatest goal with this motion is to increase awareness,” said Allison.

The motion builds on the momentum created by regulations passed in February that require food and beverage manufacturers to clearly label top allergens and gluten on their packaging.

Motion 546 argues for:

  • A nationally coordinated information campaign to educate Canadians and boost levels of knowledge and understanding among health care providers, “Health Canada can and should play a key role in providing accurate and targeted information to groups such as medical professionals, first aid and emergency training providers, child care workers, food service providers and to those who work in the hospitality industry,” said Allison. 

  • A commitment to research.We, unfortunately, do not yet understand why the disease is becoming so prevalent, how to stop this upward trend or how to prevent food allergies from developing,” said Allison. 

  • A transportation policy that makes the use of public transportation safe for those with anaphylaxis. Allison argued that airlines should have to consult with the anaphylaxis community to develop policies to effectively reduce some of the risks. “A long-term financial and program commitment is necessary within Canada, and standardized and evidence-based guidelines for diagnosis, management and treatment of food allergy and anaphylaxis need to be developed. 

  • ‘May Contain’ labeling rules. Allison acknowledged the new labeling regulations announced by Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq in February, but argued that more can done, including formalized rules on “may contain” statements on food packages. He also promoted the development of an “allergy aware” symbol that would indicate that an item has been reviewed to be found free of major allergens. 

The debate in the House of Commons lasted an hour, with MPs from each opposition party speaking in favour of Allison’s motion.

Allison began his speech by acknowledging non-profit group Niagara Anaphylaxis Support & Knowledge (NASK), which has been promoting the motion initiative.

Allergic Living interviewed NASK representative Debbie Bruce to learn more about the implications of the motion and where it goes from here.

Allergic Living’s Q&A with NASK Debbie Bruce

Q. What is the importance of this discussion in terms of getting recognition for anaphylaxis?

The discussions led to a new level of appreciation for the seriousness of anaphylaxis and the many challenges of avoiding risk. There was a stated commitment by all four political parties to work towards solutions outlined in the 5 points raised in the motion. There is a new found focus within Health Canada and other government departments relating to allergy issues.

Q. How does the election campaign affect the future of this motion?

The timing of the election is unfortunate for the motion as it is was lost along with the other bills and legislative agenda. The good news is the debate of the motion is on official report (Hansard) and can now be referred to when speaking in Ottawa to MPs and to Health Canada. With continuous reference to the 5 points, the MPs’ debate has put on record many significant matters and an approach to working towards solutions. (See the debate here.)

Q. Are there things motion supporters can be asking of candidates in their ridings?

Now is the perfect time to be speaking to the electoral candidates in your community. When they knock on your door – tell them how important Anaphylaxis Motion 546 is to your family. Talk about some of the challenges you face trying to keep your loved ones safe. Ask if you can count on their support. Don’t hesitate to phone their campaign offices. The candidates want to know what is important to their constituents.

Q. What are the next steps on this initiative?

Niagara area MP Dean Allison has committed to re-introducing motion 546. When Parliament reconvenes, Mr. Allison and families involved with the Canadian Anaphylaxis Initiative will work with new MPs and the returning MPs to raise awareness for the new motion. We will work with MPs to ensure the anaphylaxis motion is fully debated and acted upon within Ottawa’s bureaucracy.

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