Food allergens and food labelling

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According to the World Allergy Organization, there are 220 to 520 million people on Earth that may suffer from food allergies. In Canada, 7.5% of people report having food allergies (The Allergy, Genes and Environment Network). A food allergy is a reaction of the immune system that occurs after consuming a certain food.

A person can be allergic or intolerant to any type of food. However, certain allergens are more common than others. Health Canada has established the following foods as priority allergens and of public health concern:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Seafood (fish, shellfish, crustaceans)
  • Soy
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios or walnuts)
  • Sesame
  • Wheat and other gluten sources (barley, oats, rye, triticale)
  • Mustard
  • Sulphites

Proper labelling of allergens on prepackaged food products is essential to allergic individuals, as allergic reactions can develop quickly and can be severe, sometimes deadly. For the protection of those suffering from food allergies, the government of Canada adopted, in February 2011 and December 2016 modifications to the Food and Drug Regulations to enhance the labelling of food allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites.

Failure to declare a priority allergen is one of the major causes of food product recalls. Whenever a food product is recalled from the marketplace, a public warning is issued and information related to the recall is posted on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website and the Government of Canada’s website. Needless to say, the recall process can be very costly to the manufacturing company.

The food industry (manufacturers, importers, retailers, etc.) has the legal and moral obligation to ensure that their food products are properly labelled with allergens present in their food products. However, the regulations are complex with their requirements and exceptions. ACC Label is a key partner of the food industry since 1990 – already 29 years! Clients from all over the world come to us for guidance on how to make their food labels compliant with Canadian food labelling legal requirements. For expert advice with respect to the legal compliance of your allergen statements, or any other label element, ask us for a quote by clicking here.

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