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Food and Nutrition

Mustard - One of the ten priority food allergens

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Cat. No.: H164-156/10-2012E-PDF
ISBN: 978-1-100-21164-0
HC Pub.: 120136

Allergic reactions

Allergic reactions are severe adverse reactions that occur when the body's immune system overreacts to a particular allergen. These reactions may be caused by food, insect stings, latex, medications and other substances. In Canada, the ten priority food allergens are peanuts, tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachio nuts and walnuts), sesame seeds, milk, eggs, seafood (fish, crustaceans and shellfish), soy, wheat, sulphites (a food additive) and mustard.

What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction?

When someone comes in contact with an allergen, the symptoms of a reaction may develop quickly and rapidly progress from mild to severe. The most severe form of an allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis. Symptoms can include breathing difficulties, a drop in blood pressure or shock, which may result in loss of consciousness and even death. A person experiencing an allergic reaction may have any of the following symptoms:

  • Flushed face, hives or a rash, red and itchy skin
  • Swelling of the eyes, face, lips, throat and tongue
  • Trouble breathing, speaking or swallowing
  • Anxiety, distress, faintness, paleness, sense of doom, weakness
  • Cramps, diarrhea, vomiting
  • A drop in blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, loss of consciousness

How are food allergies and severe allergic reactions treated?

Currently there is no cure for food allergies. The only option for managing the risk is to completely avoid the specific allergen. Appropriate emergency treatment for anaphylaxis (a severe food allergy reaction) includes an injection of epinephrine, which is available in an auto-injector device. Epinephrine must be administered as soon as symptoms of a severe allergic reaction appear. The injection must be followed by further treatment and observation in a hospital emergency room. If your allergist has diagnosed you with a food allergy and prescribed Epinephrine, carry it with you all the time and know how to use it. Follow your allergist's advice on how to use an auto-injector device.

Frequently asked questions about mustard allergies

I have a mustard allergy. How can I avoid a mustard-related reaction?

Avoid all food and products that contain mustard or mustard derivatives which contain mustard protein. These include any product whose ingredient list warns it "may contain" or "may contain traces of" mustard.

How can I determine if a product contains mustard or mustard derivatives?

Always read the ingredient list carefully. If mustard is part of the product formulation, it must be declared in the list of ingredients or in a separate "contains:" statement immediately following the list of ingredients.

Do I need to avoid canola if I have a mustard allergy?

Canola oil can be made using both rapeseed (Brassica Napus and Brassica Rapa) and mustard seed (Brassica Juncea) The name "canola" was derived from "Canadian oil, low (erucic) acid" and refers to the quality of the oil produced from the seed, rather than a specific species. Historically the only part of canola that is commonly used in food is canola oil, which has been highly refined and which does not contain any appreciable amounts of protein. For this reason canola oil is not considered to pose a risk for people with mustard allergy.

People with mustard allergy should not eat any food if it contains mustard or canola meal or protein as an ingredient.

Do I need to avoid other seeds or plants in the Brassicaceae family if I have a mustard allergy?

Mustard belongs to the Brassicaceae family which includes other members such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, turnip and rapeseed. Since these plants are closely related to mustard, their seeds contain very similar proteins to mustard seeds. People with mustard allergy should avoid consuming the seeds and sprouted seeds of other members of the Brassicaeae family as these have the potential to trigger an adverse reaction. While some people with mustard allergy have reported reactions to plants in the Brassicaeae family, such as cabbage or cauliflower, the protein in mustard seed that triggers allergic reactions is a specific seed storage protein that is not found in mature plants.

What do I do if I am not sure whether a product contains mustard or mustard derivatives?

If you have a mustard allergy, do not eat or use the product. Get ingredient information from the manufacturer.

Does product size affect the likelihood of an allergic reaction?

Product size does not affect the likelihood of a reaction; however, the same brand of product may be safe to consume for one product size but not another. This is because product formulation may vary between different product sizes of the same product.

Avoiding mustard and mustard derivatives

Make sure you read product labels carefully to avoid products that contain mustard and mustard derivatives. Avoid food and products that do not have an ingredient list and read labels every time you shop. Manufacturers may occasionally change their recipes or use different ingredients for varieties of the same brand.

Avoid food and products that do not have an ingredient list and read labels every time you shop.

Food and products that contain or often contain mustards

  • Condiments
  • Salad Dressings (vinaigrettes and cruditées)
  • Spices, flavouring or seasoning
  • Sauces:
    • Barbecue
    • Curry
    • Cumberland
    • Ketchup, tomato sauces
    • Béarnaises
    • Mayonnaises
    • Pesto
    • Vinaigrettes
    • Gravies, Marinades
  • Curries, Chutneys
  • Pickles and other pickled products
  • Vegetables with vinegar
  • Dehydrated soups
  • Processed Meat (sausages, salami etc.) including hamburgers/steakettes, some fast food products

Other possible sources of mustard

  • Some appetizers
  • Dehydrated mashed potatoes
  • Some baby/toddlers prepackaged food
  • Sprouted seeds

Note: This list is not complete and may change. Food and food products purchased from other countries, through mail-order or the Internet, are not always produced using the same manufacturing and labelling standards as in Canada.

What can I do?

Be informed.

See an allergist and educate yourself about food allergies. Contact your local allergy association for further information.

If you or anyone you know has food allergies or would like to receive information about food being recalled, sign up for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) Next link will take you to another Web site free e-mail "Food Recalls and Allergy Alerts" notification service. When you sign up you will automatically receive food recall public warnings.

Before eating

Allergists recommend that if you do not have your auto-injector device with you that you do not eat. If an ingredient list says a product "contains:" or "may contain:" mustard or mustard derivatives, do not eat it. If you do not recognize an ingredient or there is no ingredient list available, avoid the product.

Watch out for allergen cross contamination!

Cross contamination is the transfer of an ingredient (food allergen) to a product that does not normally have that ingredient in it. Through cross contamination, a food that should not contain the allergen could become dangerous to eat for those who are allergic.

Cross contamination can happen:

  • during food manufacturing through shared production and packaging equipment;
  • at retail through shared equipment, e.g., cheese and deli meats sliced on the same slicer; and through bulk display of food products, e.g., bins of baked goods, bulk nuts; and
  • during food preparation at home or in restaurants through equipment, utensils and hands.

What is the Government of Canada doing about food allergens?

The Government of Canada is committed to providing safe food to all Canadians. The CFIA and Health Canada work closely with municipal, provincial and territorial partners and industry to meet this goal.

The CFIA enforces Canada's labelling laws and works with associations, distributors, food manufacturers and importers to ensure complete and appropriate labelling of all foods. The CFIA recommends that food companies establish effective allergen controls to prevent the occurrence of undeclared allergens and cross-contamination. The CFIA has developed guidelines and tools to aid them in developing these controls. When the CFIA becomes aware of a potential serious hazard associated with a food, such as undeclared allergens, the food product is recalled from the marketplace and a public warning is issued. The CFIA has also published several advisories to industry and consumers regarding allergens in food.

Health Canada has worked with the medical community, consumer associations, and the food industry to enhance labelling regulations for priority allergens, gluten sources and sulphites in pre-packaged food sold in Canada. Health Canada has amended the Food and Drug Regulations to require that the most common food and food ingredients that cause life-threatening or severe allergic reactions are always identified by their common names on food labels, allowing consumers to easily recognize them.

More information on the regulations to enhance the labelling of food allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites can be found on the Health Canada website.

If you come across a food that you think is improperly labelled, contact the CFIA and provide information about the product.

Next link will take you to another Web site Report a food safety or labelling concern

Where can I get more information?

For more information on:

  • food allergies; and
  • subscribing to the "Food Recalls and Allergy Alerts" e-mail notification service,
  • visit the Next link will take you to another Web site CFIA Website or call 1-800-442-2342/TTY 1-800-465-7735 (8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, Monday to Friday).

For information on this and other Government of Canada programs and services call

  • 1 800 O-Canada (1 800 622-6232)
  • TTY 1 800 465 7735

Below are some of the organizations that can provide additional allergy information:

Developed in consultation with Allergy/Asthma Information Association, Anaphylaxis Canada, Association québécoise des allergies alimentaires, Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and Health Canada.