Health Canada

Health Canada

October 29, 2009 14:34 ET

Health Canada Consulting on Policy Options for Precautionary Labelling of Priority Allergens on Pre-Packaged Foods

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 29, 2009) - In 2007, Health Canada initiated a policy review on the use of precautionary labelling of priority allergens on pre-packaged foods. The department has now completed its review and is preparing to consult with stakeholders and the Canadian public on the various policy options.

The public consultations will be carried out in two phases: a web consultation which, once online, will be open to the public for a period of 90 days; and regional workshops with key stakeholders that will be held in November and December 2009. For more information on the consultations, please visit Health Canada's website (

Health Canada's main policy proposals to improve the use of precautionary labelling of priority allergens on pre-packaged foods are as follows:

- Limit the use of precautionary statements on food labels to a small number of acceptable statements;

- Support the development of consensus guidelines for Good Manufacturing Practices on allergen handling;

- Support the development of guidelines for a standardized approach to risk assessments of potential cross-contamination of allergens;

- Support the development of guidelines for documentation and on-site storage of findings of allergen risk assessments; and

- Implement voluntary education program for consumers.

The department is committed to consulting with food allergy consumer groups, the food industry, and the Canadian public with the aim of publishing a revised policy and guideline for the use of food allergen precautionary statements on pre-packaged foods.

The current policy on precautionary labelling of prepackaged foods was set in 1994 and allows for precautionary statements to be made by food manufacturers and importers on a voluntary basis. There is no required wording for these voluntary precautionary statements, only that they be truthful, clear and non-ambiguous, and that they not be a substitute for Good Manufacturing Practices.

It is estimated that as many as 2 million Canadians, or six per cent of the population, are affected by food allergies and sensitivities. This includes those with food allergies, those with intolerance to gluten known as Celiac disease, and those with sulphite sensitivities.

Health Canada will continue to update Canadians on the progress of this issue once the consultation period has concluded. Please visit the Health Canada Web site for information on the Use Of Food Allergen Precautionary Statements On Prepackaged Foods (

For more information on food allergies, please visit:

Health Canada's Food Allergy and Intolerances Page (

Health Canada's Allergen Labelling Page (

Health Canada's Celiac Disease Page (

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