Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Breaking the (food labelling) law

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A little over a year ago Canada changed the food labelling laws for common allergens. With the growing prevalence of food allergies and celiac disease this change in the law was intended to provide clarity for the consumer. No longer could food manufacturers use the statement “may contain x, y, z, etc” to cover their butts. That statement was now to only be used if there was a real risk of an allergen being present in a food. Consumers were advised to treat any allergen identified in this manner as being present in the ingredient list. Despite this, it seems that some companies are just not getting it.

There are a couple of areas that I’m not sure about as they don’t seem to be clearly covered in the labelling laws: restaurants and supplements. Neither of these are packaged foods; however, it seems to me as they are ingested by consumers they really should have to comply to the same regulations. Then again, we all know how closely the supplement industry is regulated by Health Canada and the CFIA. Despite foods listing “hydrolyzed vegetable protein” on their ingredient lists having to identify the specific vegetable source of the protein in their allergen statement, it seems that supplements do not have to as I have seen many vitamins listing HVP without stating the source.

Not very long ago I was out for dinner with my family. I noticed that the menu offered “gluten-free” pizzas. However, a disclaimer stated that, because the kitchen was not gluten-free there may be cross-contamination of the pizzas. I went on a little tirade to my family about how they shouldn’t make the statement that their pizza crusts are gluten-free if they can’t guarantee that they haven’t been cross-contaminated. I’m sure they meant well but for someone with celiac disease it’s like saying “here, you can eat this, oh, maybe not”. It only takes a very small amount of gluten for someone with celiac disease to become quite ill.

The worst offender though are the Beanitos chips. They’re a relatively new tortilla chip made from beans rather than from corn. The package proudly proclaims that they’re gluten-free yet, if you read the allergen statement it says that they’re “made in a facility that also processes wheat.” Hmm…. Pretty sure that this is contrary to the new labelling laws. If there is enough risk of cross-contamination then you can’t say that your product is gluten-free. This is the butt-covering that the new labelling laws were designed to curtail. Your product is either gluten-free or it’s not.

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Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

One thought on “Breaking the (food labelling) law

  1. Thank you! One place I know that does gluten-free pizza along with the regular pizza is extra careful about it, but even so, it is always a danger. I was shopping for a bottle of aspirin the other day, called the company, and got a line that they could not guarantee that the product was gluten-free because they could not verify that the line it was made on did not use wheat. (basically, apparently some companies dust the conveyor belt with flour so nothing sticks). I just get so discouraged sometimes. And when I turn a package over and see the little disclaimer?! ARGH. (and it is even on flours/ingredients at times). I just have to check everything.

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