Allergen labelling part of proposed food labelling changes in Canada

Health Canada is requesting feedback from Canadians on proposed labelling changes until August 27, 2015. Amongst the numerous proposed changes, they want to change the formatting of ingredient lists so that each ingredient is separated by a bullet point, black font is used against a white or neutral background and “Make the ingredient list and information on allergens easier to find and read.” These are basically changes to establish a more common look and feel to ingredient lists.

You can read about the label changes that impact allergen listings but the big differences on the allergen front are:

  • Food colours will be represented by their common name in the ingredient list. This would eliminate the use of a generic term such as “colour”.
  • “Contains” statements that list allergens used in the product must appear right after the main ingredient list. Allergens in the product will continue to be required on the label in a “Contains” statement.
  • “May Contain” statements that indicate potential cross contamination with allergens must also appear right after the main ingredient list and “Contains” statements, in the same size font as the rest of the information.

One ingredient in Health Canada’s illustration/example of the new label format is “Spices”, which continues to be vague and a possible source of contention for those who have food allergies. This is not addressed in the proposed changes.

If these changes to the Regulations are accepted, Health Canada is proposing a 5 year transition period before the new requirements come into force. Products sold by those who make them (think craft shows, farmers’ markets) would continue to be exempt from the requirements. Grocery retailers who use “retail or scale labels” would also be exempt.

The proposed changes would make sure that ingredients are all listed together in a legible manner on the label of packaged foods. Anything to make reading and interpreting labels easier is certainly welcomed by me but I’m thinking it would be helpful to require listing the specific spices in addition to colours?

Anyways, go make your voice heard!

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