Health Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Common menu bar links

About Health Canada

Backgrounder: Changes to Enhanced Allergen Labelling Regulations

Notice to the reader: This document has been updated by a news release dated August 3, 2012.

News Release: Harper Government Strengthens Food Allergen Labelling Regulations

February 2011

Often, avoiding an allergenic food ingredient is the only way for people with food allergies to protect themselves. That is why ingredient labels are one of the most useful tools for allergic Canadians.

The new revised regulations to enhance food allergen labelling will also cover gluten sources, which must be avoided by those with celiac disease, and added sulphites, which must be avoided by those with a sensitivity to sulphites.

The revised regulations will require that manufacturers clearly identify food allergens, gluten sources, and sulphites either in the list of ingredients or at the end of the list of ingredients with the following statement "Contains: . . . ". The regulations will also require that manufacturers list components of ingredients if they contain food allergens, gluten sources, or sulphites. For example, if a prepackaged food contains the ingredient "spices", that food will be required to list any allergens, gluten sources, or sulphites present in the spices.

The new regulations will benefit Canadians in a number of ways. They will provide a clearer ingredient label so that consumers can better avoid foods that contain the ingredient to which they are allergic or sensitive.

As well, the strengthened labelling regulations will provide manufacturers with clear labelling requirements so that allergens, gluten sources, and sulphites will be labelled in a systematic and consistent manner. These clear requirements are aimed at reducing the number of food recalls and adverse reactions.

The new requirements will notably include:

  • Food allergens, gluten sources, and sulphites will need to be labelled in the list of ingredients or in a statement that begins with "Contains:..";
  • The food allergen or gluten source will be written in commonly used words such as ("milk" or "wheat");
  • Mustard seed will be added to the regulatory definition of food allergen;
  • Common name for the plant sources of hydrolyzed protein will be declared. For example, the label may indicate soy, or hydrolyzed vegetable protein (soy), rather than just hydrolyzed vegetable protein;
  • For the allergen source: spelt and kamut will be declared as wheat;
  • Sulphites above 10 ppm will be treated the same as other allergens and use of a separate "Contains" statement will be optional;
  • If a food allergen is present in wine and spirits as a result of the use of fining agents from eggs, fish or milk, the allergen source must be shown on the label of the prepackaged product.
  • The source of any allergen or gluten present in the wax coating or their compounds would be required to be shown on the label of prepackaged fruits and vegetables.

The regulations will be amended in a phased approach, with most of the regulations published officially today.

The proposed regulatory amendments were published in Part I of the federal government's official newspaper, the Canada Gazette, in order to seek comments from all stakeholders. Some changes were made to the proposed regulatory amendments in response to comments received. For more information on those changes, please visit the Summary of Changes from Canada Gazette, Part I to Canada Gazette, Part II.

Because of the complexity of the changes and the shelf-life of foods, Health Canada has allowed manufacturers 18 months to implement the new labelling regulations. However, the department is encouraging industry to declare allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites to provide Canadians with the information necessary to make informed food choices.

Please visit Health Canada's website for details on the final regulatory amendments on labelling regulations for food allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites.

Canadians can also subscribe to receive email notifications for allergy alerts by visiting the Next link will take you to another Web site Canadian Food Inspection Agency's recall page.

For more information on food allergies, food intolerances, and celiac disease, please visit: