Monday, February 14, 2011

New Food Labeling Requirements Officially Announced

Today the Government of Canada finally followed through on their promise to enact new food labeling requirements that have been in the works since 2008.  See here for Health Canada's official press release.  Also, see the following for a description of what is to included in the new labeling:

The new legislation requires that potential allergens such as wheat and milk be clearly displayed on the food label prefaced by the word "Contains", and that the simple terms be used.  An example is if a product contains casein, the label must state that the product contains milk, thus simplifying the process of identifying potential allergens.  The labeling extends to wax coatings of prepackaged fruits and vegetables as well, which is significant.  Another area of clarification is the requirement to declare the source of hydrolized plant protein.  

The regulations are of course not perfect.  Potential sources of cross-contamination were deemed to be outside of the scope of the current legislation, and the beer and wine industry were successful in their attempts to be exempt from the new legislation pending further consultation.  However, a publicity campaign decrying the stalling of the legislation on behalf of health advocacy groups was successful in pressuring the government to implement the new legislation without further delay.  The exemption of the beer and wine industry for the time being is in my view a satisfactory compromise in the interim.

The new requirements come into effect  August 4, 2012, providing manufacturers 18 months in which to change their labels, but they are urged to comply with the new regulations as quickly as possible.

On a personal level, this is a significant victory for my family.  It allows me to make more informed choices about what to purchase for my son and be better in control of his health.  I hope that it will be viewed that was by food manufacturers as well.  There are many products that I do not purchase because of vague ingredient information on their labels.  Many products may indeed be safe for my son to consume, but without clear labeling, my purchasing dollars go elsewhere.  This may increase the range of products that I and other consumers like me purchase. No should be in fear of consuming a product because they can't find out what it contains, and this new legislation provides the consumer with the power to make informed choices.

A great way to start the week, don't you think?

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