What does "May Contain" mean?

Courtesy CCA National

may contain labelThere is a lot of misunderstanding about what May Contain means when it shows up on a food label in Canada. The two biggest misconceptions are that 1) it is simply a legal disclaimer used to reduce getting sued, and 2) that it must be used whenever there is a gluten source present in the plant. Neither of these things is true.

May Contain is a VOLUNTARY statement in Canada. Manufacturers can choose whether or not to use it on their packages. There is no requirement to use them and there is no prohibition against using them. The only requirements are that they be truthful and that they are not a substitute for Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs). Good Manufacturing Practices are not a set of “thou shalt” statements, they are a series of general principles that must be observed during manufacturing to make sure that products are safe for consumption and are produced in controlled conditions that prevent cross-contamination with allergens or other hazardous ingredients.

To quote Health Canada, “Precautionary labelling should only be used when, despite all reasonable measures, the inadvertent presence of allergens in food is unavoidable. It must not be used when an allergen or allergen-containing ingredient is deliberately added to a food. Furthermore, the use of a precautionary statement where there is no real risk of an allergen being present in the food is contrary to the Department’s goal of enabling a variety of safe and nutritious food choices for the allergic consumer.” Source: The Use Of Food Allergen Precautionary Statements On Prepackaged Foods.

About David Fowler

David Fowler is an online marketing consultant specializing in AdWords PPC, SEO, and website updates. He is the webmaster of Kelowna Celiac and was co-chair of the Kelowna 2012 CCA National Conference in Kelowna.