Canada Proposes New Food Labelling Requirements To Protect Health

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Health, announced increased protection for Canadians with food allergies by introducing new labelling requirements for food allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites contained in prepackaged foods. Health Canada also announced the launch of several allergy studies, including a large national study of food allergy prevalence, and two studies on the dietary habits and coping skills of people with celiac disease who are on a gluten-free diet.

"The Government of Canada is taking action to protect the health and wellbeing of Canadians with food allergies and celiac disease," said Minister Clement. "These new proposed labelling requirements will provide Canadians with the information they need to manage their own allergies, and give parents greater assurance about the food they give their children who may have allergies."

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, 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.

The improved regulations would require that manufacturers declare all food allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites on labels of prepackaged foods. The regulations would also detail exactly how these allergens, glutens and sulphites are to be listed on food labels.

Today's announcement is another step the Government of Canada has taken to improve and protect the health and well being of Canadians through strengthened food and product safety standards. Other recent initiatives have included the tabling of the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, which will allow the government to order recalls for health and consumer products and better protect Canadians from unsafe products; tightening the definition of "made-in-Canada" and "product-of-Canada" labelling; and showing international leadership in the safe management of chemical substances used in the production of many common household products through the Chemicals Management Plan.


Minister Clement today also called on industry to take proactive steps to improve the labelling of food allergens to allow Canadians with allergies to better identify foods that are safe for themselves and their children.

"Ensuring safe foods for Canadians is a collaborative effort between government, industry and consumers," said Minister Clement. "Until the regulatory amendments proposed by my department are enacted, we are asking industry to be proactive in improving labelling of food allergens and gluten sources to protect the health of Canadians."

"Reading food labels is the first line of defence for food allergic consumers," said Laurie Harada, Executive Director of Anaphylaxis Canada. "Making sure that Canadians can identify foods which could cause an allergic reaction is essential. The proposed regulatory amendments will be an important tool to protect and improve the quality of life for food-allergic consumers."

The food allergy prevalence study initiated by AllerGen, the Allergy, Genes and Environment Network and co-sponsored by Health Canada, will look to provide accurate data on how many Canadians suffer from food allergies, as well as information on the types of food most commonly known to cause allergies. It is the largest study to date on the prevalence of food allergies in Canada, and is co-led by researchers from McGill and McMaster Universities.

Results from these studies are expected to give Canadian researchers, government officials and the allergic community essential information on the scope and impacts of food allergies in Canada.

The two research studies to be conducted in collaboration with the Canadian Celiac Association will examine how individuals manage gluten-free diets, and the psychological impact that living on a gluten-free diet has on the daily life of an individual with celiac disease. The information this survey will generate will be used to create a better awareness and understanding of gluten-free diets by health care providers, policymakers and the food industry.

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.