Health Canada Updating Food Allergen Regulatory Proposal
In July 2008, Health Canada published in Canada Gazette, Part I proposed regulatory amendments for the labelling of food allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites. The department has now reviewed the comments received and is publishing documents detailing some of the changes being made to the proposal as a result of the consultations.
As a result of the over 140 comments received up until early December 2008 following the publication of the proposed regulatory amendment in Canada Gazette, Part I in July 2008, Health Canada has made several decisions and changes to its regulatory proposal to address concerns raised by stakeholders and Canadian consumers. These include:
* The development of Canadian criteria for the establishment of new priority food allergens;
* The decision to add mustard as a priority allergen in the regulations based on this criteria document;
* The decision to not add onions and garlic to the list of priority allergens in the regulations based on this criteria document; and
* The decision to remove the proposed exemptions of declaration for fining agents and wax coatings on the labels of pre-packaged food products.
The department is now working on updating the regulatory proposal to reflect these decisions and other comments received during the consultations in order to move forward in the regulatory process. The goal is to have the updated regulations published in the Canada Gazette Part II in the spring of 2010.
The current Food and Drug Regulations require that ingredients of food products be declared on the labels of most prepackaged foods. However, components of certain ingredients are exempted from declaration in the list of ingredients. While the Canadian Food Inspection Agency does have the ability to recall foods exempted from the labelling requirements if a health risk is identified with undeclared allergens, the strengthened labelling regulations will provide manufacturers with clear labelling rules for allergens to be followed in a systematic and consistent manner, aimed at reducing the number of food recalls and allergic reactions.
It is estimated that up to six per cent of young children and three to four per cent of adults suffer from food allergies. Nearly one per cent of the population is affected by celiac disease, a serious sensitivity to gluten.