Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Clarity coming to food labelling in Canada

  • Print

Canada is not a world leader on food labelling, but it's close.

Many parents and school board bureaucrats across the country will soon express a sigh of relief as Canada's new food allergen labelling regulations, announced back in February 2011, will come into force on Aug. 4.

The Canadian food industry was given those 18 months to implement the new allergen labelling regulations, and many food companies have been in compliance for a while.

Starting soon, however, food allergens, gluten sources and sulphites will need to be included on the list of ingredients. This is welcome news for more than one million Canadians who suffer from food allergies of one kind or another.

Until now, access to information and clarity of meaning remained major challenges for consumers seeking information on ingredients contained in food products at point of sales around the country. Even if the information was available, studies show many consumers could barely understand the list of ingredients.

For example, before stricter regulations were in place, eggs could have up to 17 different descriptions on the label of a food product, 12 for milk and peanuts could be identified in eight different ways.

The new regulations compel food manufacturers to use plain and simple language when listing the allergens and gluten sources.

A recent Canadian study shows 47 per cent of respondents experienced an accidental allergic exposure due to inappropriate and ineffective labelling, failure to read or understand labels and ignoring precautionary statements. Thankfully, these issues are properly addressed with the new regulations.

This has been in the works for a while. In 2008, regulations were instigated by then health minister Tony Clement.

From there, months of consultation went into creating a regulatory framework that would make sense to regulators, industry pundits and consumers.

With its new labelling rules, Canada will soon join Australia and New Zealand as the only countries that require warning of allergens on food labels. The United States and the EU, two of Canada's most important trading partners, are currently working on similar regulations.

When it comes to global food labelling leadership, Canada is not far behind; however, in the grand scheme of things, it does not matter. What really matters is what these regulations can do for the quality of life of consumers, domestic and abroad.

Australia and New Zealand's labelling policy is impressive, as it encompasses a significant amount of metric standards such as comprehensive nutritional information on ingredients and additives.

While all countries are striving to improve the standard of health for their consumers, more effort should be made to develop internationally standardized labelling standards; in other words, efforts should be better co-ordinated.

Allergen labelling is of global critical importance for consumers, and standardized labelling would promote consistency and clarity.

For obvious trading reasons, there is a need to narrow the labelling standard gap among countries. Governments around the world must continue to work with consumers and industry to find that balance of regulated and voluntary compliance of food labelling standards, while respecting economic realities within the food industry.

Canada will likely not be recognized as a global offbeat trendsetter in food labelling, but it will not be categorized as irresponsible either. New regulations around food allergens are what Canadian consumers expect from its government.

Canadian consumers will obviously have to remain vigilant when shopping for food products, but at least government is providing them with the information they need and understand to protect themselves and their loved ones, which is one of the most crucial tasks for any government.

 

Sylvain Charlebois is associate dean, college of management and economics, University of Guelph.

sylvain.charlebois@uoguelph.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 2, 2012 A6

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Your top TV picks for Dec. 1-4

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Korea Veterans Association stained glass window at Deer Lodge Centre. Dedication with Minister of Veterans Affairs Dr. Rey Pagtakhan. March 12, 2003.
  • horse in sunset - marc gallant

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should Canada send heavy military equipment to Ukraine?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google