Food labels expanded to include specific allergens
Published Friday, August 3, 2012 7:03AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 3, 2012 12:57PM EDT
New food labelling rules are to take effect across the country this weekend that will require food makers to clearly identify the presence of ingredients that could cause allergic reactions.
The regulations will require food manufacturers to clearly identify the 10 most common food allergens, as well as gluten and sulphites.
The 10 priority food allergens that are part of the regulations include: peanuts, eggs, milk, tree nuts, wheat, soy, sesame seeds, seafood, sulphites and mustard.
The substances must be noted in the ingredients list, or in a statement on the package that begins with the word "Contains.”
The clearer labels should be useful to the 2.5 million Canadians who have at least one food allergy. It will also help those with celiac disease, who need to avoid gluten to control their auto-immune condition.
The changes are being welcomed by Anaphylaxis Canada, an advocacy group for people with food allergies that pushed for the new regulations.
"All Canadians have a right to know what the ingredients are in the food products they are buying," Laurie Harada, executive director at Anaphylaxis Canada, said in a statement.
The inclusion of gluten in labels is one of the biggest changes in the regulations.
The change should come as good news to the one per cent of Canadians who suffer from celiac disease. While ingesting gluten isn't immediately life-threatening, the grain-based protein leads to serious digestive issues for celiacs.
Gluten is often hidden in other ingredients listed under such names as “plant protein,” “spices” and artificial or natural flavour.
While many Canadians think of food allergies as primarily affecting children, that’s not always the case.
Dr. Paul Keith, the vice-president of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, notes that other age groups are also in danger of developing anaphylaxis, the most severe reaction to a food allergy.
“The most likely age for a fatal anaphylactic reaction is in teenagers. They are the ones who are highest at risk,” Keith told CTV News Channel.
“They are more likely to take chances with food. They’re also more likely to have uncontrolled asthmas and then have a severe reaction and die.”
Keith notes that in many cases, people are born with food allergies, especially those allergic to peanut, milk and egg proteins.
But anyone can develop a food allergy at any time in life. Shrimp allergies often don’t develop in some people until later in life, Keith says.
“They’ll inhale a dust mite, typically from their pillow or mattress, and then they start to react to shrimp, which has a cross-reactive protein,” he explained.
“They can also develop tree nut allergies or tree fruit allergies from inhaling tree pollen in the spring. So they might start to react to fresh apple but be okay with apple pie.”
As for why food allergies are on the rise, Keith says the current thinking is that we’ve over-sanitized our living environments and are not being exposed to enough infections.
“We’re not getting a lot of gut infections, which used to protect us from developing food allergies. And also, we have many ways of preventing infections in childhood, which in the past used to protect us from becoming sensitized to innocuous allergens.”