Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

April 20, 2007 09:55 ET

CFIA: Notice to Food Editors

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - April 20, 2007) - As part of an ongoing effort to increase consumer awareness about common food allergens, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is distributing the attached allergen fact sheets - Milk and Seafood. The information highlights the symptoms of an allergic reaction and addresses key information about the specific allergens.

You can view these fact sheets, along with additional food safety information, on the CFIA Web site at www.inspection.gc.ca.

Thanks for helping us get these important food safety messages to consumers.

Milk

One of the nine most common food allergens

Allergic reactions

Allergic reactions are severe adverse reactions that occur when the body's immune system overreacts to a particular allergen. These reactions may be caused by food, insect stings, latex, medications and other substances. In Canada, the nine priority food allergens are peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, milk, eggs, seafood (fish, crustaceans and shellfish), soy, wheat and sulphites (a food additive).

What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction?

When someone comes in contact with an allergen, the symptoms of a reaction may develop quickly and rapidly progress from mild to severe. The most severe form of an allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis. Symptoms can include breathing difficulties, a drop in blood pressure or shock, which may result in loss of consciousness and even death. A person experiencing an allergic reaction may have any of the following symptoms:

- Flushed face, hives or a rash, red and itchy skin

- Swelling of the eyes, face, lips, throat and tongue

- Trouble breathing, speaking or swallowing

- Anxiety, distress, faintness, paleness, sense of doom, weakness

- Cramps, diarrhea, vomiting

- A drop in blood pressure, rapid heart beat, loss of consciousness

How are food allergies and severe allergic reactions treated?

Currently there is no cure for food allergies. The only option is complete avoidance of the specific allergen. Appropriate emergency treatment for anaphylaxis (a severe food allergy reaction) includes an injection of adrenaline, which is available in an auto-injector device. Adrenaline must be administered as soon as symptoms of a severe allergic reaction appear. The injection must be followed by further treatment and observation in a hospital emergency room. If your allergist has diagnosed you with a food allergy and prescribed adrenaline, carry it with you all the time and know how to use it. Follow your allergist's advice on how to use an auto-injector device.

Frequently asked questions about milk allergies

I have a milk allergy. How can I avoid a milk-related reaction?

Avoid all food and products that contain milk and milk derivatives. These include any product whose ingredient list warns it "may contain" or "may contain traces of" milk.

Can a milk allergy be outgrown?

Studies show that two to four per cent of infants are milk allergic and most outgrow their allergy by three years of age. However, a severe milk allergy can last a lifetime. Consult your allergist before reintroducing milk products.

What is the difference between milk allergy and lactose intolerance?

When someone has a milk allergy his/her immune system has an abnormal reaction to milk proteins, which may be life-threatening. When a person is lactose intolerant, his/her body does not have enough of the enzyme lactase, needed by the digestive system, to break down the milk sugar lactose. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea after milk ingestion. Lactose intolerance is not an allergy. If you are unsure whether you have milk allergy or lactose intolerance, consult an allergist.

How can I determine if a product contains milk or milk derivatives?

Always read the ingredient list carefully. Milk and milk derivatives can often be present under different names, e.g., casein. For other common ingredient label names, refer to the list below.

What do I do if I am not sure whether a product contains milk or milk derivatives?

If you have a milk allergy, do not drink or eat or use the product. Get ingredient information from the manufacturer.

Does product size affect the likelihood of an allergic reaction?

It does not affect the likelihood of a reaction; however, the same brand of product may be safe to consume for one product size but not another. This is because product formulation may vary between different product sizes of the same product.

Avoiding milk and milk derivatives

Make sure you read product labels carefully to avoid products that contain milk and milk derivatives. Avoid food and products that do not have an ingredient list and read labels every time you shop. Manufacturers may occasionally change their recipes or use different ingredients for varieties of the same brand. Refer to the following list before shopping:


Other names for milk


Ammonium/calcium/magnesium/potassium/sodium caseinate

Casein/caseinate/rennet casein

Curds

Delactosed/demineralized whey

Dry milk/milk/sour cream/sour milk solids

Hydrolyzed casein, hydrolyzed milk protein

Lactalbumin/lactalbumin phosphate

Lactate/lactose

Lactoferrin

Lactoglobulin

Milk derivative/fat/protein

Modified milk ingredients

Opta™, Simplesse® (fat replacers)

Whey, whey protein concentrate

Avoid food and products that do not have an ingredient list and read labels every time you shop.


Possible sources of milk


Artificial butter, butter fat/flavour/oil, ghee, margarine

Baked goods and baking mixes e.g., breads, cakes, doughnuts

Brown sugar, high-protein flour

Buttermilk, cream, dips, salad dressings, sour cream, spreads

Caramel colouring/flavouring

Casein in wax, e.g., fresh fruits and vegetables

Casseroles, frozen prepared foods

Cereals, cookies, crackers

Cheese, cheese curds, cottage/soy cheese

Chocolate

Desserts, e.g., custard, frozen yogurt, ice cream, pudding, sherbet, yogurt

Egg/fat substitutes

Flavoured coffee, coffee whitener, non-dairy creamer

Glazes, nougat

Gravy, sauces

Kefir (milk drink), kumiss (fermented milk drink), malt drink mixes

Meats, e.g., canned tuna, deli/processed meats, hot dogs, pates, sausages

Pizza

Potatoes, e.g., instant/mashed/scalloped potatoes, seasoned french fries/potato chips

Seasonings

Snack foods, e.g., candy, fruit bars, granola bars

Soups, soup mixes

Tofu

Wax coated fruits and vegetables


Non-food sources of milk

Cosmetics

Medications

Pet food


Ingredients that do not contain milk protein

Calcium/sodium lactate

Calcium/sodium stearoyl lactylate

Cocoa butter

Cream of tartar

Oleoresin

Note: These lists are not complete and may change. Food and food products purchased from other countries, through mail-order or the Internet, are not always produced using the same manufacturing and labelling standards as in Canada.

What can I do?

Be informed

See an allergist and educate yourself about food allergies. Contact your local allergy association for further information.

If you or anyone you know has food allergies or would like to receive information about food being recalled, sign up for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) free e-mail "Food Recalls and Allergy Alerts" notification service available at www.inspection.gc.ca/english/tools/listserv/listsube.shtml?foodrecalls_rappelsaliments. When you sign up you will automatically receive food recall public warnings.

Before eating

Allergists recommend that if you do not have your auto-injector device with you that you do not eat. If an ingredient list says a product "may contain" or "does contain" milk or milk derivatives, do not eat it. If you do not recognize an ingredient or there is no ingredient list available, avoid the product.

Watch out for allergen cross contamination!

Cross contamination is the transfer of an ingredient (food allergen) to a product that does not normally have that ingredient in it. Through cross contamination, a food that should not contain the allergen could become dangerous to eat for those who are allergic.

Cross contamination can happen:

- during food manufacturing through shared production and packaging equipment;

- at retail through shared equipment, e.g., cheese and deli meats sliced on the same slicer; and through bulk display of food products, e.g., bins of baked goods, bulk nuts; and

- during food preparation at home or in restaurants through equipment, utensils and hands.

What is the Government of Canada doing about food allergens?

The Government of Canada is committed to providing safe food to all Canadians. The CFIA and Health Canada work closely with municipal, provincial and territorial partners and industry to meet this goal.

The CFIA enforces Canada's labelling laws and works with associations, distributors, food manufacturers and importers to ensure complete and appropriate labelling of all foods. The CFIA recommends that food companies establish effective allergen controls to prevent the occurrence of undeclared allergens and cross-contamination. The CFIA has developed guidelines and tools to aid them in developing these controls. When the CFIA becomes aware of a potential serious hazard associated with a food, such as undeclared allergens, the food product is recalled from the marketplace and a public warning is issued. The CFIA has also published several advisories to industry and consumers regarding allergens in food.

Health Canada has worked with the medical community, consumer associations, and the food industry to enhance labelling regulations for priority allergens, gluten sources and sulphites in pre-packaged food sold in Canada. Health Canada is proposing to amend the Food and Drug Regulations to require that the most common food and food ingredients that cause life-threatening or severe allergic reactions are always identified by their common names allowing consumers to easily recognize them.

Where can I get more information?

For more information on:

- food allergies;

- ordering free copies of this pamphlet; and

- subscribing to the free "Food Recalls and Allergy Alerts" e-mail notification service,

visit the CFIA Website at www.inspection.gc.ca or call 1 800 442-2342/TTY 1 800 465-7735 (8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, Monday to Friday).

Below are some organizations that can provide additional allergy information:

Allergy/Asthma Information Association www.aaia.ca

Anaphylaxis Canada www.anaphylaxis.ca

Association quebecoise des allergies alimentaires www.aqaa.qc.ca (French only)

Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology www.csaci.medical.org (English only)

Health Canada www.hc-sc.gc.ca

Developed in consultation with Allergy/Asthma Information Association, Anaphylaxis Canada, Association quebecoise des allergies alimentaires, Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and Health Canada.

Cat. No. A104-27/6-2005E

ISBN 0-662-40355-X

P0424-05/07E

Seafood(i)

(Fish, Crustaceans and Shellfish)

One of the nine most common food allergens

(i)In this pamphlet, the term seafood refers to all edible fish, crustaceans and shellfish from fresh and salt water.

Allergic reactions

Allergic reactions are severe adverse reactions that occur when the body's immune system overreacts to a particular allergen. These reactions may be caused by food, insect stings, latex, medications and other substances. In Canada, the nine priority food allergens are peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, milk, eggs, seafood (fish, crustaceans and shellfish), soy, wheat and sulphites (a food additive).

What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction?

When someone comes in contact with an allergen, the symptoms of a reaction may develop quickly and rapidly progress from mild to severe. The most severe form of an allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis. Symptoms can include breathing difficulties, a drop in blood pressure or shock, which may result in loss of consciousness and even death.A person experiencing an allergic reaction may have any of the following symptoms:

- Flushed face, hives or a rash, red and itchy skin

- Swelling of the eyes, face, lips, throat and tongue

- Trouble breathing, speaking or swallowing

- Anxiety, distress, faintness, paleness, sense of doom, weakness

- Cramps, diarrhea, vomiting

- A drop in blood pressure, rapid heart beat, loss of consciousness

How are food allergies and severe allergic reactions treated?

Currently there is no cure for food allergies. The only option is complete avoidance of the specific allergen. Appropriate emergency treatment for anaphylaxis (a severe food allergy reaction) includes an injection of adrenaline, which is available in an auto-injector device. Adrenaline must be administered as soon as symptoms of a severe allergic reaction appear. The injection must be followed by further treatment and observation in a hospital emergency room. If your allergist has diagnosed you with a food allergy and prescribed adrenaline, carry it with you all the time and know how to use it. Follow your allergist's advice on how to use an auto-injector device.

Frequently asked questions about seafood allergies

What is the difference between crustaceans and shellfish?

Crustaceans are aquatic animals that have jointed legs, a hard shell and no backbone, such as crab, crayfish, lobster, prawns and shrimp. Shellfish (also known as molluscs) have a hinged two-part shell and include clams, mussels, oysters and scallops, and various types of octopus, snails and squid.

How can I avoid a fish, crustacean or shellfish-related reaction if I'm allergic to these foods?

Avoid all food and products that contain fish, crustacean or shellfish and their derivatives. These include any product whose ingredient list warns it "may contain" or "may contain traces of" fish, crustaceans or shellfish.

What is the difference between a fish, crustacean or shellfish allergy and histamine poisoning?

When someone has a seafood allergy his/her immune system has an abnormal reaction to either fish, crustacean or shellfish proteins. Histamine poisoning is caused by eating fish that contain high levels of histamine, a chemical that forms when certain types of fish start to decompose. High levels of histamine develop when fish, such as anchovies, mackerel, mahi-mahi and tuna, are not properly frozen or refrigerated. Histamine poisoning causes symptoms similar to seafood allergic reactions and can often be mistaken for a fish, crustacean or shellfish allergic reaction. If you are unsure whether you have a seafood allergy or histamine poisoning, consult an allergist or seek emergency medical treatment.

If I am allergic to one type of seafood will I be allergic to another?

It is possible for some people who are allergic to one type of seafood (fish, crustacean or shellfish) to eat other types of seafood without having a reaction. However, studies show that when a person has a specific seafood allergy he/she may also be allergic to other species within the same group. For example, if you're allergic to cod, you may also be allergic to pike as both are fish; if you're allergic to shrimp, you may also be allergic to lobster as both are crustaceans; if you're allergic to mussels, you may also be allergic to clams as both are shellfish. If someone is allergic to one type of seafood - fish or crustaceans or shellfish - he/she will not necessarily be allergic to the other types. Consult your allergist before experimenting.

Can I have a seafood-related reaction even if I do not eat or use seafood and seafood derivatives?

Yes. There have been reported reactions to seafood vapours from cooking, preparing (e.g., sizzling skillets), and handling fish, crustaceans and shellfish and/or products that contain them. Avoid these situations. Seafood and seafood derivatives can often be present under different names, e.g., kamaboko. For other common ingredient label names, refer to the list below. Always read the product ingredient list carefully.

What do I do if I am not sure whether a product contains seafood or seafood derivatives?

If you have a seafood allergy, do not eat or use the product. Get ingredient information from the manufacturer.

Does product size affect the likelihood of an allergic reaction?

It does not affect the likelihood of a reaction; however, the same brand of product may be safe to consume for one product size but not another. This is because product formulation may vary between different product sizes of the same product.

Watch out for allergen cross contamination!

Cross contamination is the transfer of an ingredient (food allergen) to a product that does not normally have that ingredient in it. Through cross contamination, a food that should not contain the allergen could become dangerous to eat for those who are allergic.

Cross contamination can happen:

- during food manufacturing through shared production and packaging equipment;

- at retail through shared equipment, e.g., cheese and deli meats sliced on the same slicer; and through bulk display of food products, e.g., bins of baked goods, bulk nuts; and

- during food preparation at home or in restaurants through equipment, utensils and hands.

Avoiding seafood and seafood derivatives

Make sure you read product labels carefully to avoid products that contain seafood and seafood derivatives. Avoid food and products that do not have an ingredient list and read labels every time you shop. Manufacturers may occasionally change their recipes or use different ingredients for varieties of the same brand. Refer to the following list before shopping:

Other names for fish, crustaceans and shellfish

Fish:

Anchovy, bass, bluefish, bream, carp, catfish (channel cat, mudcat), char, chub, cisco, cod, eel, flounder, grouper, haddock, hake, halibut, herring, mackerel, mahi-mahi, marlin, monkfish (angler fish, lotte), orange roughy, perch, pickerel (dore, walleye), pike, plaice, pollock, pompano, porgy, rockfish, salmon, sardine, shark, smelt, snapper, sole, sturgeon, swordfish, tilapia (St. Peter's fish), trout, tuna (albacore, bonito), turbot, white fish, whiting.

Crustaceans:

Crab, crayfish (crawfish, ecrevisse), lobster (langouste, langoustine, coral, tomalley), prawns, shrimp (crevette).

Shellfish:

Abalone, clam, cockle, conch, limpets, mussels, octopus, oysters, periwinkle, quahaugs, scallops, snails (escargot), squid (calamari), whelks.


Possible sources of fish, crustaceans and shellfish


Deli meats, e.g., bologna, ham

Dips, spreads, kamaboko (imitation crab/lobster meat)

Ethnic foods, e.g., fried rice, paella, spring rolls, Nuoc Mam

Fish mixtures, e.g., surimi (used to make imitation crab/lobster meat)

Garnishes, e.g., antipasto, caponata (Sicilian relish), caviar, roe (unfertilized fish eggs)

Gelatin, marshmallows

Hot dogs

Pizza toppings

Salad dressings

Sauces, e.g., fish, marinara, steak, Worcestershire

Soups

Spreads, e.g., taramasalata (contains salted carp roe)

Sushi

Tarama (salted carp roe)

Wine


Non-food sources of fish, crustaceans and shellfish


Fish food

Lip balm/lip gloss

Pet food

Note: These lists are not complete and may change. Food and food products purchased from other countries, through mail-order or the Internet, are not always produced using the same manufacturing and labelling standards as in Canada.

What can I do?

Be informed

See an allergist and educate yourself about food allergies. Contact your local allergy association for further information.

If you or anyone you know has food allergies or would like to receive information about food being recalled, sign up for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) free e-mail "Food Recalls and Allergy Alerts" notification service available at www.inspection.gc.ca/english/tools/ listserv/listsube.shtml?foodrecalls_rappelsaliments. When you sign up you will automatically receive food recall public warnings.

Before eating

Allergists recommend that if you do not have your auto-injector device with you, that you do not eat. If an ingredient list says a product "may contain" or "does contain" seafood or seafood derivatives, do not eat it. If you do not recognize an ingredient or there is no ingredient list available, avoid the product.

What is the Government of Canada doing about food allergens?

The Government of Canada is committed to providing safe food to all Canadians. The CFIA and Health Canada work closely with municipal, provincial and territorial partners and industry to meet this goal.

The CFIA enforces Canada's labelling laws and works with associations, distributors, food manufacturers and importers to ensure complete and appropriate labelling of all foods. The CFIA recommends that food companies establish effective allergen controls to prevent the occurrence of undeclared allergens and cross-contamination. The CFIA has developed guidelines and tools to aid them in developing these controls. When the CFIA becomes aware of a potential serious hazard associated with a food, such as undeclared allergens, the food product is recalled from the marketplace and a public warning is issued. The CFIA has also published several advisories to industry and consumers regarding allergens in food.


Health Canada has worked with the medical community, consumer associations, and the food industry to enhance labelling regulations for priority allergens, gluten sources and sulphites in pre-packaged food sold in Canada. Health Canada is proposing to amend the Food and Drug Regulations to require that the most common food and food ingredients that cause life-threatening or severe allergic reactions are always identified by their common names allowing consumers to easily recognize them.

Where can I get more information?

For more information on:

- food allergies;

- ordering free copies of this pamphlet; and

- subscribing to the free "Food Recalls and Allergy Alerts" e-mail notification service,

visit the CFIA Website at www.inspection.gc.ca or call 1 800 442-2342/TTY 1 800 465-7735 (8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, Monday to Friday).

Below are some organizations that can provide additional allergy information:

Allergy/Asthma Information Association www.aaia.ca

Anaphylaxis Canada www.anaphylaxis.ca

Association quebecoise des allergies alimentaires www.aqaa.qc.ca (French only)

Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology www.csaci.medical.org (English only)

Health Canada www.hc-sc.gc.ca

Developed in consultation with Allergy/Asthma Information Association, Anaphylaxis Canada, Association quebecoise des allergies alimentaires, Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and Health Canada.

Cat. No. A104-27/1-2005E

ISBN 0-662-40350-9

P0426-05/07E

Contact Information

  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency
    Media Relations office
    613-228-6682