Food Allergen Labelling
Priority Food Allergens
Health Canada published amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations in February 2011 to strengthen the labelling requirements for substances most frequently associated with food allergies and allergic-type reactions. These include peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, wheat and triticale, milk, eggs, fish, crustaceans, shellfish, soybeans, mustard seeds, grains containing gluten, and added sulphites. The amended regulations make declaration of the priority allergens mandatory even when these are an ingredient of another ingredient.
The new food allergen labelling regulations came into force on August 4, 2012. The 18-month transition period recognized the complexity of the changes and the shelf-life of foods currently on the market. Food manufacturers must declare priority food allergens, gluten sources, and added sulphites on food labels, either in the list of ingredients or immediately following the list of ingredients in the statement
"Contains: [common name of allergen]".
Despite all possible safeguards, the presence of allergenic ingredients in foods cannot always be avoided. Precautionary statements on food labels are used by food manufacturers and importers to alert the consumer to the possible inadvertent presence of an allergen in a food.
Health Canada is reviewing its policy on the use of precautionary statements on prepackaged food labels. Precautionary labelling should only be used when, despite all reasonable measures, the inadvertent presence of an allergen in food is unavoidable. Furthermore, it should not be used unless there is a real risk of the allergen being present in the food. To address the potential risks associated with misuse of food allergen statements and to provide a
"level playing field" for the food industry, Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are recommending that food industry use only one set of wording on food labels: "May contain [common name of allergen]".
AAFC participated on the federal working group addressing precautionary labelling and supported consultation efforts with the food industry. The consultation process facilitated a practical and realistic implementation process and the establishment of thresholds for allergens.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada supports the agri-food sector in bringing innovative foods with added health benefits to market. Contact the Food Regulatory Issues Division for assistance in determining the right regulatory path for new food products with health attributes and in developing high-quality submissions to Health Canada.
- Food Allergen Labelling (Health Canada)
- Enhanced Labelling Regulations for Food Allergens (Canadian Food Inspection Agency)
- The Use of Food Allergen Precautionary Statements on Prepackaged Foods (Health Canada)
- Health Canada's Position on Gluten-Free Claims (Health Canada)
- CFIA Compliance and Enforcement of Gluten-Free Claims (Canadian Food Inspection Agency)