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What to Look For on Food Labels - Allergy Awareness

News Release: Updated Allergen Labelling Rules Now in Effect

With new food labels for priority allergens now on most foods sold in Canada, Canadians with food allergens may be asking themselves what changes have been made and how they can use the new labels to protect themselves and their families.

The new labeling rules apply to the list of "priority allergens", which have been identified as most likely to cause serious allergic reactions for Canadians.

Here are some of the biggest changes and how you can use the new information:

  1. Labelling of "hidden" priority allergens

    Up until now, food labels did not have to declare when a priority allergen was used to make an ingredient like spices or flavours. Now, labels on products will have to let consumers know when these allergens are in the product, either in the ingredient list or in a "contains" statement.

    Parents and consumers should look for the allergen in the ingredient list as usual (components of an ingredient like spices may be in brackets) or look for a "contains" statement after the ingredients, like "Contains: XXXXX".

  2. Plain language names of ingredients

    With the new food labels, companies will have to use commonly understood names for the priority allergens. This will make it easier to identify when a food contains a specific allergen.

    These names, such as "wheat" or "milk," will have to be used either in the ingredient list or the "contains" statement.

  3. New priority allergen - Mustard

    Based on a scientific assessment, Health Canada has added mustard to the list of priority allergens that require additional labelling under the new regulations.

    Canadians with mustard allergies will now be able to look for greater information on food labels to help them identify foods they can safely eat.

    The list of priority allergens is now:

    • Peanuts
    • Tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts)
    • Milk
    • Eggs
    • Seafood (fish, crustaceans, shellfish)
    • Soy
    • Wheat
    • Sesame seeds
    • Mustard
    • Sulphite

  4. Gluten-Free Labelling

    The latest science shows that people with celiac disease only react to the protein fraction of certain cereals like wheat or barley. They can also tolerate very small amounts of gluten protein in their diets without having negative reactions. As a result, Health Canada has updated its regulatory requirements and guidance around gluten-free labelling to clarify when a gluten-free label can be used.

    These updated measures will make it easier for industry to understand the requirements, while also allowing Canadians with celiac disease to have confidence in food labels and greater choice in the foods they buy.