Health Canada Gets Serious About Allergens with Mandatory Enhanced Allergen Labeling
December 13, 2012
Authors: Jennifer McKenzie, Tamarah Luk and Noelle Engle-Hardy
On August 4, 2012, regulations amending the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) came into effect aimed at reducing the inadvertent consumption of undeclared food allergens and to provide consumers with safe food choices. The amendments require enhanced labeling for food allergens, gluten sources, or added sulphites on food labels whenever they or their derivatives are added to prepackaged foods. http://www.gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2011/2011-02-16/html/sor-dors28-eng.html
General Requirements for Enhanced Labeling
Under the FDR, all pre-packaged foods must carry a label listing ingredients. The FDR now requires an enhanced prescribed list of known allergens, gluten sources, and sulphites to be declared in commonly used words. For example, the common names for plant sources of starches, modified starches, hydrolyzed plant proteins, and lecithin must now indicate source information (e.g., “hydrolyzed soy protein” instead of “hydrolyzed vegetable protein”); and the common name of gluten sources must be declared, such as barley, oats, rye, triticale, or wheat. These allergens, gluten sources, and sulphites must be declared either in the list of ingredients or in a separate “contains” statement immediately following the ingredient list (e.g., “Contains: milk, peanuts, triticale, wheat (spelt), and sulphites.”)
Some foods not requiring a list of ingredients will continue to be exempt from these new rules. However, if a manufacturer voluntarily lists ingredients for these exempted foods, the manufacturer must adhere to these new rules.
Other Key Amendments
Ingredients in foods usually exempt from declaring their components must now identify any food allergens, gluten sources, and sulphites within exempt components. For example, a pre-packaged food listing “spices” must list any allergens, gluten sources, or sulphites in the spices.
In addition, companies that manufacture products made with barley, oats, rye, triticale, or wheat, without any gluten protein, have the option of labeling them “gluten free.”
Finally, although standardized alcoholic beverages are not required to list ingredients, if wine or other standardized alcoholic beverages (except standardized beer) contain a food allergen, gluten, or sulphites, these must be declared as set out above on a visible surface. Additional amendments dealing with enhanced labeling of beer will be dealt with in future consultations.
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