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
www.healthcanada.gc.ca/foodallergies
Health Canada’s Allergen Labelling Page
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/label-etiquet/allergen/index-eng.php
Health Canada’s Celiac Disease Page
www.healthcanada.gc.ca/celiac
CFIA’s Food Allergens Page
http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/labeti/allerg/allerge.shtml