With a recent rise in the awareness of food allergies and intolerances, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is introducing enhanced labelling regulations for food allergens. The new guidelines came into force on August 4, 2012. These regulations will help Canadians with food allergies and sensitivities make more informed choices about the foods they buy.
It is estimated that approximately 5% to 6% of young children and 3% to 4% of adults suffer from food allergies. Nearly 1% of the population is affected by celiac disease, for whom the consumption of foods containing gluten can lead to long term complications.
The new regulations will require additional labelling and strengthen the labelling requirements to require clearer language and the declaration of otherwise “hidden“ allergens, gluten sources and sulphites. On February 16, 2011, amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations prescribing enhanced labelling requirements for food allergens were published in the Canada Gazette, Part II. At that time, the CFIA and Health Canada posted an advisory stating that industry would have 18 months to bring their labels into compliance. That deadline is fast approaching.
With the new requirements, food packages will include food allergens, gluten sources and sulphites in the list of ingredients or in a statement that begins with “contains“ on their labels.
The regulations say that product packages must use commonly used words to identify food allergen or gluten sources — such as “milk“ or “wheat.“ The common names for the plant sources of starches, modified starches, hydrolyzed plant protein and lecithin must also include the source. For example, the label must indicate hydrolyzed soy protein rather than just hydrolyzed vegetable protein.
Some other specific guidelines include:
- Products that include spelt and kamut must declare wheat as an allergen on their labels.
- If a packaged food contains the ingredient “spices“, that food will be required to list any allergens, gluten sources, or sulphites present in the spices.
- Pre-packaged fruits and vegetables that have a protective edible coating or wax must include the source of any allergen or gluten on their labels.
CFIA and Health Canada are encouraging companies to start using new labels based on the new regulations as soon as possible to provide consumers with important allergy information. For more information on the new regulations, visit Heath Canada Food Allergen Labelling.