For those with food allergies, sensitivities or intolerances, avoiding specific foods and ingredients is an important health challenge. An allergic individual coming into contact with an undeclared allergen such as peanuts in a food product may have symptoms that develop quickly and rapidly progress from mild to severe, including anaphylactic shock and death. For those suffering from celiac disease, the only current treatment is to maintain a strict gluten-free diet.
Canada's new food allergen labelling regulations came into force on August 4, 2012
The Food and Drug Regulations require that most prepackaged foods carry a label and that the ingredients appear on labels in decreasing order of proportion. However, some ingredients used in food products which were previously exempt from declaration in the list of ingredients, (e.g., components of margarine, seasoning and flour) will now be required to appear on food labels also.
Based on consultations with stakeholders, including allergy associations and the medical community, Health Canada developed amendments to the Regulations to enhance labelling requirements for specific priority allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites in prepackaged foods sold in Canada.
Health Canada first published its proposed regulatory amendments in Canada Gazette, Part I, on July 26, 2008 to allow for public comment. Health Canada then took into consideration all comments received until November 28, 2008 before bringing the final regulations forward and publishing them in the Canada Gazette, Part II. For information on the federal government's regulatory process, www.regulation.gc.ca
For more information on Canada's Food Allergen Labelling Regulatory Amendments, please see the following information:
Due to the complexity of the changes and the shelf-life of foods, Health Canada provided manufacturers with 18 months to implement the new allergen labelling regulations. Health Canada continues to encourage industry to declare priority allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites on prepackaged food labels to provide Canadians with the information necessary to make informed food choices.
Beer products whose components respect the standards of composition for beer in the Food and Drug Regulations are considered "standardized". Such "standardized" beers are not required to carry an ingredient list. Standardized beer is always made from barley and or wheat, and is therefore not suitable for individuals with celiac disease to consume. Beer can also contain other allergens or sulphites depending on the individual product.
As previously advised by Health Canada, a food allergic consumer should always seek out products with a list of ingredients. This is also applicable to beer products. Health Canada also advises that food allergic consumers continue to contact the product manufacturer directly to determine the ingredients present within an unlabelled beer product.