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Monday, July 28, 2008

New Food Labeling Requirements Proposed in Canada

Health Canada, the governmental department that is similar to the Department of Health and Human Services in the U.S. had put new food labeling requirements up for public comment for the next 90 days.

Food Allergies - New Labelling Requirements for Foods: Regulations to Enhance the Labelling of Food Allergens, Gluten Sources and Added Sulphites.

Although the Food and Drug Regulations (the Regulations) require that a complete and accurate list of ingredients appear on the label of most prepackaged foods, they currently exempt certain ingredients from component declaration. For example, when flavours, flour, seasoning and margarine are used as ingredients in other foods, their components do not have to be included in the list of ingredients. In addition, the name used to declare an ingredient’s presence in a food may make it difficult to determine if the food should be avoided (e.g. ovalbumin for egg derivatives, casein for milk ingredients...). As a result, food allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites can be “hidden” from consumers trying to identify them in the list of ingredients.

The proposed new regulations correct this by requiring that any source of a potential allergen must be declared.
The new Food and Drug Regulations will require that the following foods be declared on food labels whenever they or their protein derivatives are added to prepackaged foods having a list of ingredients, whether they are added as ingredients, or as components of ingredients.

1) Food allergens, meaning any protein from any of the following foods or any modified protein, including any protein fraction, that is derived from any of the following foods:

a) almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios or walnuts;
b) peanuts;
c) sesame seeds;
d) wheat, kamut, spelt or triticale;
e) eggs;
f) milk;
g) soybeans;
h) crustaceans;
i) shellfish; or
j) fish.

2) The gluten source when the food contains any gluten protein from the grain of any of the following cereals or the grain of a hybridized strain produced from at least one of the following cereals: barley, oats, rye, triticale or wheat, including kamut or spelt.

3) Sulphites, when either directly added to a food or when the total amount of sulphites present in the food is 10 parts per million or more.

The proposed regulations will also require that the list of ingredients identify the specific sources of hydrolysed plant proteins, starches and modified starches, and lecithins.

Manufacturers will have to declare food allergens and gluten sources by name either in the list of ingredients or at the end of the list of ingredients in a statement called "Allergy and Intolerance Information - Contains: ...". It will be mandatory to use this statement to declare added sulphites when the concentration in the final product is equal or higher than 10 ppm.

When the statement: "Allergy and Intolerance Information - Contains: ...", it will also need to list the food allergen, gluten sources and added sulphites (at 10 ppm and above) in the food, whether allergens and gluten sources have already been declared in the ingredients list or not.

Manufacturers and importers will have one year from the time the final regulations are published to comply. If there are significant objections to the regulations, this period may be quite far in the future. If all goes well, consumers will see all products conforming to them by the end of next year.

Health Canada has a Q&A, Questions and Answers About the New Regulations to Enhance the Labelling of Food Allergens, Gluten and Added Sulphites, for consumers.

The Canada Gazette has a long, if technical, examination of the issues behind the proposal and what they mean for industry and consumers.

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