Understanding Gluten Labelling In Canada – Free Webinar May 17th

Gluten-Labelling Webinar

As part of our Celiac Awareness Month activities, the CCA is launching its first of several webinars to support the Canadian celiac community.

Pre-registration is required. The webinar is FREE. 

Contact information is required in order to participate. Space is limited.

DATE: Wednesday, May 17, 2017     TIME:   7 – 8pm OR  9 – 10pm EDT

Title: Is that safe for me? Understanding gluten labelling in Canada 

Presenter: Sue Newell

Here’s what you’ll learn:

1. Understand the requirements for a gluten-free claim in Canada

2. Understand the elements of risk analysis for gluten contamination in food

3. Identify the package elements used to determine the gluten risk for food

4. Understand the core elements of certification

To register: Click or paste on one of the following links:

7 – 8pm EDT – https://zoom.us/webinar/register/1919e53d6f0fd9717510d14dfea9e911

9 – 10pm EDT – https://zoom.us/webinar/register/ba967167c899f16966858a512be5123a

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.

FDA matches Canada for 20 PPM “gluten-free” labeling

FDA Press Release

New rule provides standard definition to protect the health of Americans with celiac disease

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has published a new regulation defining the term “gluten-free” for voluntary food labeling. This will provide a uniform standard definition to help the up to 3 million Americans who have celiac disease, an autoimmune digestive condition that can be effectively managed only by eating a gluten free diet.

“Adherence to a gluten-free diet is the key to treating celiac disease, which can be very disruptive to everyday life,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “The FDA’s new ‘gluten-free’ definition will help people with this condition make food choices with confidence and allow them to better manage their health.”

fda-logoThis new federal definition standardizes the meaning of “gluten-free” claims across the food industry. It requires that, in order to use the term “gluten-free” on its label, a food must meet all of the requirements of the definition, including that the food must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. The rule also requires foods with the claims “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “without gluten” to meet the definition for “gluten-free.”

The FDA recognizes that many foods currently labeled as “gluten-free” may be able to meet the new federal definition already. Food manufacturers will have a year after the rule is published to bring their labels into compliance with the new requirements.

“We encourage the food industry to come into compliance with the new definition as soon as possible and help us make it as easy as possible for people with celiac disease to identify foods that meet the federal definition of ‘gluten-free’” said Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.

The term “gluten” refers to proteins that occur naturally in wheat, rye, barley and cross-bred hybrids of these grains. In people with celiac disease, foods that contain gluten trigger production of antibodies that attack and damage the lining of the small intestine. Such damage limits the ability of celiac disease patients to absorb nutrients and puts them at risk of other very serious health problems, including nutritional deficiencies, osteoporosis, growth retardation, infertility, miscarriages, short stature, and intestinal cancers.

The FDA was directed to issue the new regulation by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), which directed FDA to set guidelines for the use of the term “gluten-free” to help people with celiac disease maintain a gluten-free diet.

Why Don't They Just Call it Gluten Free?

Courtesy CCA National Newsletter

ingredients-listI have heard a lot of complaints recently about products that have no gluten ingredients and no warnings on the label about gluten, but when the company is contacted, they do not identify the product as gluten free. Sometimes the response from customer service is that there might be gluten in the spices or flavouring; sometimes it is that there is a possibility that the product might have come in contact with gluten.

The comments from our members: What use are labels? Why don’t they just call it gluten free?.

A “gluten free” claim has a special meaning beyond “there is no gluten in the product”. In Canada’s Food and Drug Regulations, section B.24.001, it is defined as a “food that has been specially processed or formulated to meet the particular requirements of a person a) in whom a physical or physiological condition exists as a result of a disease, disorder or injury …”. In the case of gluten free products, this means that the product has been formulated for someone with celiac disease.

It is easy to understand how a loaf of gluten free bread has been formulated to meet the needs of someone with celiac disease. Soups made without hydrolyzed wheat protein, licorice candy made with rice flour instead of wheat flour, snack bars made without outs – it is easy to see how all these products were formulated to meet the need of people with celiac disease.

It gets much more difficult to make that claim when you are talking about ketchup or salad dressing or cocoa, however. Not using a gluten-free ingredient when gluten free ingredients are not normally used does not meet the criteria of a food specially formulated for someone with celiac disease. Putting a gluten free label on those products might be questionable.

The products may be safe for someone with celiac disease, but they will not carry a gluten free label.

There is one way that the companies might be able to make this claim for a product that does not generally contain gluten – if they have introduced a food safety program that includes controlling gluten as a food safety hazard, they have specially processed the product to meet the needs of someone with celiac disease. Manufacturers who have met the requirements of the CCA’s Gluten Free Certification Program, for example, have done this.

Every person with celiac disease needs to figure out how they will decide which products they will consume. The CCA has recommended reading the ingredient list and choosing products that do not contain gluten in the ingredient list or a “may contain” statement. In addition, they recommend choosing flour products where the manufacturer has made a gluten-free claim.

Requiring a gluten-free claim will minimize your gluten exposure, but it will also limit the number of products available to you. If you decide that is going to be your criteria, you need to reconcile yourself to this fact or you are going to spend your time feeling deprived and frustrated. Set your criteria and be confident in your decision.

Domino’s Gluten-Free Pizza Crust in Canada

Courtesy National

domino's pizza logoDomino’s brought their gluten-free pizza crust to Canada this month, but they present customers with this disclaimer when you try to order the pizza:

Domino’s pizza made with a Gluten Free Crust is prepared in a common kitchen with the risk of gluten exposure. Therefore, Domino’s DOES NOT recommend this pizza for customers with celiac disease. Customers with gluten sensitivities should exercise judgment in consuming this pizza.

Right now we don’t know if small amounts of gluten are a problem for people with gluten sensitivity, the CCA does not recommend that anyone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity consume pizzas from Domino’s.

According to company spokesman Barry Langhodge, the crust is gluten-free but they are NOT selling a gluten-free pizza. The crust is made in a dedicated gluten-free facility. It arrives at the restaurant individually wrapped and ready to cook from scratch, but there are no practices in place to avoid cross-contamination as the toppings are added, the pizza is cooked, and the pizza is boxed up.

The CCA hopes to work with the company to develop policies that will allow them to sell a gluten-free pizza, not just a gluten-free crust.

New labeling law now in effect – what you need to know


CCA LogoNew labelling regulations in Canada come into effect today (August 4, 2012). While manufacturers have had some time to implement the new regulations, some products may not meet all the requirements immediately. While the CONTAINS and MAY CONTAIN statements are helpful in identifying top allergens and gluten, always read the ingredient list.

The new regulations require that the ten priority allergens, gluten sources, and added sulphites of 10 ppm be identified using plain language either in the ingredient list or in a Contains statement that appears immediately after the ingredient list. Manufacturers have a choice about which method they choose to use.

When you check for gluten, you may need to check two places:

  • The INGREDIENT list

Start with the WARNINGS. You are looking for wheat, rye, barley, oats or gluten.

If you see wheat, rye, barley, oats or gluten, in either the CONTAINS or MAY CONTAIN list, the product is NOT OK.

If there is a CONTAINS statement, and it does not include wheat or a gluten grain, the ingredients are acceptable for a gluten-free diet.

If the ingredient list just says oats, assume they are contaminated with gluten, unless they are specifically identified as pure uncontaminated oats or by the source (Cream Hill Estates Oats, Only Oats, etc.).

If there is no CONTAINS statement, check the INGREDIENT list. You are looking for wheat, rye, barley or oats. If you see wheat, rye, barley, or oats, the product is NOT OK. If you do not see any gluten source listed, the ingredients are acceptable for a gluten-free diet.



  • Plain names must be used for all allergens – WHEAT, MILK, EGGS, etc. Allergens cannot be hidden in ingredients like seasoning or natural flavour.
  • If one allergen is listed in a CONTAINS statement, then all the allergens including gluten must be listed.
  • The only warnings that have official meanings are CONTAINS and MAY CONTAIN. All other warnings (“made in a plant that also processes wheat “etc.) can only be understood by contacting the company.
  • Cross-contamination with gluten can occur in a product despite the use of good manufacturing practices and may not be reflected on the ingredient list.

Get a printable PDF version of this document at: http://www.celiac.ca/pdfs/Looking_for_gluten.pdf

Food labeling law moves ahead but beer gets an exemption

The proposed allergen labeling law is finally going ahead. Industry now has 18 months to implement new allergen labeling regulations which require food allergen or gluten sources to be written in a uniform way.

The new regulations were set to be announced earlier this month but a last minute attempt by the beer industry for an exemption led to the cancellation of the announcement. Advocates of the new law feared that reopening the discussion for a  beer exemption would set-back the new regulations by a year or more.  Advocacy groups have been asking for the new regulations for a decade.

But it’s not all good news for 1 in 20 who suffer from food allergies.  Beer companies have won their special exemption, at least for now. They successfully argued that it is obvious that beer has gluten in it and too costly to change it’s labels.  Their did not address the argument that other allergens such as sulphites, nuts, and chocolate are increasingly used in their specialty beer products. It also flies in the face of an Angus Reid poll by Anaphylaxis Canada and the Canadian Celiac Association that showed 67 per cent of Canadians wanted the proposed labelling rules to apply to all food and beverage companies.

Wine and spirits are not covered by the exemption.

According to the Globe and Mail, Anaphylaxis Canada and the Canadian Celiac Association were not invited to the government announcement today.

Read the full Health Canada press release below…

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq

Today, the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, and Royal Galipeau, Member of Parliament for Ottawa-Orleans, announced regulations to strengthen Canada’s labelling of food allergens and gluten sources. This means that Canadians with food allergies, sensitivities and celiac disease will soon be able to make more informed choices about the foods they buy. The Ministers also unveiled what the food label will now look like.

“Our Government is committed to protecting children and families from dangerous products, and this is clear from the measures we have taken in our new Consumer Product Safety Act,” said Minister Aglukkaq. “All parents want to have confidence in the food they are serving their families, and these changes to food labels will make it easier for parents of children with food allergies to identify potentially harmful, if not fatal, ingredients in foods.”

It is estimated that approximately five to six per cent of young children and three to four per cent of adults suffer from food allergies. Nearly one per cent of the population is affected by celiac disease, for whom the consumption of foods containing gluten can lead to long term complications.

The new regulations will require additional labelling and strengthen the labelling requirements to require clearer language and the declaration of otherwise “hidden” allergens, gluten sources, and sulphites.

Because of the complexity of the changes and the shelf-life of foods, industry has been given 18 months to implement the new allergen labelling regulations. The coming into force date is set for August 4, 2012.

Health Canada and the CFIA will continue to work with industry members to ensure that there is a smooth labelling implementation period for foods sold in Canada. Health Canada will continue to update Canadians on the progress of this file as the coming into force date approaches.

Please visit Health Canada’s website for details on the final regulatory amendments on labelling regulations for food allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/label-etiquet/allergen/project_1220_rias_eeir-eng.php).

You can also watch our video on Allergen Labelling (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/media/video/food-aliments-eng.php).

To subscribe to receive email notifications for allergy alerts, visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s recall page (http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/util/listserv/listsube.shtml)

For more information on food allergies, food intolerances, and celiac disease, please visit:

Health Canada’s Food Allergy and Intolerances Page
Health Canada’s Allergen Labelling Page
Health Canada’s Celiac Disease Page
CFIA’s Food Allergens Page

Celiac disease and labeling on AM 1150 radio

Kelowna Chapter President Irene Thompson and chapter member Angela Petrie were on Kelowna’s AM 1150 at 5:52 pm Thursday night to discuss this week’s set back for the new allergen labeling law.

Coincidently, the AM 1150 host, Jessica Samuels, is newly diagnosed with Celiac Disease.  Click the logo below to listen to a full audio replay of the segment (run time 9:27).


Click to listen to a full replay of the AM 1150 segment

Click here to listen to a replay (8.8 Mb streaming .mp3).

Heath Canada seeks input on labeling requirements

Health Canada is reviewing Canada’s current gluten-free labelling policy in order to minimize the risk of inadvertent consumption of gluten by sensitive individuals and to maximize the choice of gluten- free foods for consumers following a gluten-free diet. The following principles have been proposed in order to guide this work:

  • Canada’s gluten-free labelling policy should reflect the fact that consumers following a GFD for medical reasons must not consume the protein fraction of certain cereal grains.
  • Health Canada’s gluten-free labelling policy should be mindful and protective of the minority of individuals with CD who do not tolerate the consumption of uncontaminated oats.
  • This policy should reflect that Health Canada recommends that those individuals and/or practitioners interested in introducing oats to people with CD or dermatitis herpetiformis are advised to consult physicians, dietitians and health practitioners before the introduction of oats to the gluten-free diet.
  • Health Canada’s gluten-free labelling policy should take into consideration the proposed regulatory amendments to enhance the labelling of allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites in pre-packaged foods as well as Health Canada’s ongoing review of precautionary labelling of pre-packaged foods in order to promote consistency and minimize consumer confusion.

Health Canada is currently seeking feedback from the public on these proposed principles. In addition, we would like to know if there are other issues that should be considered with regards to potential changes to Canada’s gluten-free labelling policy.

The feedback received through this consultation will be considered by Health Canada as it moves forward with developing options for potential revisions to Canada’s gluten-free labelling policy.

Health Canada will undertake further consultation with stakeholders once potential options have been developed.

For more information, please click here. (PDF)