Monday, November 8, 2010

Precautionary Labelling of Priority Allergens

Debbie Bruce from Mississauga Anaphylaxis Group asked me to pass this along:

November 4, 2010
Subject: Precautionary Labelling of Priority Allergens

Ask: That the Government of Canada pass allergen food labelling legislation NOW!

Anaphylaxis is a life threatening medical condition affecting 2.5 million Canadians.

There is no cure.

There is no treatment.

The only way to manage anaphylaxis is through strict avoidance of the offending allergen.

As a family with two children with life threatening food allergies, their safety depends on accurate food labelling that is clear, accurate and complete.

The general public - including the average family dealing with anaphylaxis is not aware of these gaps in packaged goods labelling. They trust the current labelling is accurately representing whether an item is safe to eat - it does not - putting lives significantly at risk.

Did you know the following procedures are VOLUNTARY:

Cautionary statements such as "May contain..." and "Manufactured in a facility that processes..."

Currently, manufacturers are using approximately 30 different wordings for precautionary labelling statements on prepackaged foods. But whether they put it on at all is voluntary.

Implementation of Good Manufacturing Practices specifically for allergen handling.
Use of a standardized approach to Risk Assessments of potential cross-contamination.
Standardized documentation with on-site storage of findings of Risk Assessments
Education program for consumers

Consumer notification system.
In July 2008, we were very pleased when Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government announced new food labelling regulations to make it easier for food allergic Canadians and those who shop for them to read ingredient labels.

Anaphylaxis Canada worked with Health Canada in an 18-month consultation process. However, while the regulations were expected to receive final approval in February of this year, we are still waiting. Worse, there is a concern that if these regulations are not approved soon the time line for such approval will expire and we will have to start over.

This is unacceptable. We rely on labelling accuracy to keep us from accidentally ingesting an allergen we are allergic to.

This legislation would require all food package labels to clearly and thoroughly list the top 10 priority allergens and gluten among ingredients.

Prepackaged Food Manufacturers would be required to disclose "May contain..." and "Manufactured in a facility...)

In July 2008, following Allergic Living’s write-in campaign of 4,000 letters, the federal government announced it would push ahead with new regulations. We all greeted this as great news.

After a long consultation process, the regulations were ready in February. But still they are not law, still there are no firm answers on “when” they will become law.

Now, we have learned the regulations will expire by the year’s end if not passed. This will mean starting the whole process – a decade in the making – again from scratch. This is unconscionable!

“This clearly affects literally millions of Canadians in one way or another,” Health Minister Tony Clement said in an interview with Allergic Living Magazine. “Either people suffering from allergies or celiac disease, or parents who are trying to do the best for their kids who have these kinds of issues.”

I invite you to come grocery shopping with me, or with someone you know who is food allergic. See first hand, the time consuming, thought process that must go into EVERY purchase – and not just food, but cosmetics and toiletries as well. We try to intuitively decipher which manufacturers can be counted on to give accurate information. We live by the motto, “When in doubt, check it out…or do without…”

Many of us have anaphylactic children who are venturing off to university and are now responsible for managing their allergies on their own. Family, friends, day cares, schools, etc. try to shop for items that are safe. I have spent my career in the packaged goods industry – so I know the questions to ask and who to ask…and I have a difficult time assessing the level of risk. How can we expect them to manage?

Please help us get this labelling law passed now.

Thank you,
Debbie Bruce
Anaphylaxis Support
MAG (Mississauga Anaphylaxis Group)

NASK (Niagara Anaphylaxis Support & Knowledge)
905 828 1954; 3033 Harvey Crescent; Mississauga, Ontario L5L 4W2

To: The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A2
Telephone: (613) 992-4211
Fax: (613) 941-6900

The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, P.C., M.P.
Health Canada
Brooke Claxton Building
Tunney's Pasture
Postal Locator: 0906C
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0K9
Telephone: (613) 992-2848
Fax: (613) 996-9764

The Honourable Stockwell Day
President of the Treasury Board of Canada and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
Strategic Communications and Ministerial Affairs
L'Esplanade Laurier, 9th Floor, East Tower
140 O'Connor Street
Ottawa, Canada K1A 0R5
Telephone: (613) 995-1702
Fax: (613) 995-1154

See also Show Your Support Food Allergen Label From Allergic Living

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