Canadians with food allergies will be made more aware of possible allergens - such as peanuts, milk, eggs, wheat and shellfish - under Health Canada's new labelling rules unveiled yesterday by Health Minister Tony Clement.
Primarily designed to protect children with food allergies, these new labelling rules will help decrease the number of trips to the emergency room due to allergic reactions. An estimated six percent of Canadian children suffer from food allergies.
The current labelling rules require food companies to list ingredients on the labels of most pre-packaged foods. Components of certain ingredients, like spices, aren't included.
The new labelling rules will require those components to be listed in the case of several allergens. The following foods - or presence of proteins derived from these foods - must be listed on the new label: eggs, milk, soybeans, fish, crustaceans (shellfish), almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios or walnuts, peanuts, and sesame seeds.
Food companies can continue to use the phrase "may contain" when referring to potential allergens - like nuts - which may be unintentionally included in a food product. This phrase has been criticized because it may trigger reactions in people with severe food allergies.
The new label must also state the source of gluten - a protein found in most grain products - if the food contains barley, oats, rye, triticale or wheat, Kamut or spelt.
Sulphites must also be declared as a potential allergen if the amount directly added to the food exceeds ten parts per billion.
To investigate the impact of food allergies on the health of Canadians, one national study on the prevalence of food allergies and two studies on the dietary habits of people with celiac disease, a condition that requires a gluten-free diet, will be conducted by Health Canada.
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