On Monday, Canada took a significant step towards making the lives of those with food allergies easier. Starting in 2012, all food must clearly identify allergenic content in plain, simple text that is easy to read.
Currently, Canadian food packaging must list all ingredients in food. However, manufacturers often use the names of components of foods, which are not easily identifiable as being from a specific allergen such as milk or nuts. Those with food allergies have had to become extremely savvy at reading ingredient lists and identifying items to avoid. For example, those with a gluten intolerance need to keep an eye out for ingredients such as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, malt and malt flavourings, starches, emulsifiers and much more.
The new rules state that common allergens must be clearly identified by its name within the ingredients list or in a separate “contains” line.
Some of these common allergens include almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts; peanuts; sesame seeds; wheat and triticale; eggs; milk; soybeans; crustaceans; shellfish; fish; mustard seeds, as well as gluten from the grains of the following cereals: barley; oats; and rye.
Interestingly, beer companies are exempt from the requirement. Brewers’ associations had protested the move, saying it would cost manufacturers money to identify something that everyone already knows (ie. beer contains barley). However, the government continues to review the policy and may force brewers to modify their labels at a later date.
In making this move, Canada is playing catch-up behind other countries. Both the United States and Britain have already implemented these rules.
Photo by Shannon McKarney