Canadian Packaging

New Guidance on Food Allergies to Help Food Firms Help Themselves

George Guidoni   

Food allergies are one of the modern science’s greatest mysteries, and one of the industry’s most pressing challenges looking for the right solution.

As deftly noted by the brilliant American scientist and entrepreneur Anne Wojcicki, “I think it is absolutely crazy in this day and age that I have to go through a trial-and-error method to see if my child is allergic to an antibiotic or peanuts. I should just know.”

We could not agree more. According to credible statistical surveys, food allergies affect more than three million Canadians, roughly one in 10 people, for whom trial-and-error can be a very perplexing journey in the age of mass food manufacturing and rapid food SKU (stock-keeping units) proliferation at their local grocers.

For these folks, choosing the right product can be a frustrating, time-consuming experience centered around reading and understanding the vague on-pack ingredient information and warnings—often positioned on the back of the pack as an afterthought in barely legible type, just enough to meet legal requirements but no more.


According to Food Allergy Canada, “Food allergens such as peanuts, shellfish, wheat, eggs, and milk affect over three million Canadians, including 600,000 children, and impact one-in-two households.

“This community relies on access to accurate ingredient information,” the association notes, “yet current food labeling practices, specifically precautionary allergen labeling, is confusing to consumers—making it difficult to navigate safe food options.”

Commendably, Food Allergy Canada is taking a proactive approach to helping fill this communication gap with its recently released Allergen Management Guidelines for Food Manufacturers document—providing a practical framework for Canadian food and beverage manufacturers on how to develop an allergen control plan or assess their current plan within their facility. Moreover, the guidelines include thoughtful recommendations on the use of precautionary allergen labeling to ensure it can be used as an effective risk communication tool.

Developed using multi-stakeholder approach to incorporate input from food manufacturers, academia, consumers and allergists, this invaluable resource combines thoughtful insights from industry best practices, international industry guidelines, scientific and expert community reports, and Canadian food manufacturer expertise to create a comprehensive, logical and easy-to-grasp manual for helping food manufacturers help themselves by nudging allergy-prone consumers to make safe choices at the shelf level.

Rich in detail, analysis and science-based data, the comprehensive report is freely available for industry professionals for download on the association’s website:

“These guidelines offer Canadian manufacturers a risk-based approach to manage food allergens, with the aim to meet Canadian food regulatory requirements while aligning with the most recent international advice stemming from the WHO/FAO Expert Consultation on food allergen risk assessment methodologies and allergen thresholds,” says Université Laval professor Samuel Godefroy, one of the report’s key researchers.

While it will undoubtedly take time for these guidelines to be widely adopted by the 13,000 or so food and beverage producers across Canada, the early industry feedback sounds promising.

“Food allergy is a serious public health issue and food and beverage manufacturers play a critical role in helping consumers make safe product choices,” says Sharon Mohammed, director of government and industry relations at Maple Leaf Foods. “With the Allergen Management Guidelines, food manufacturers now have an industry informed framework, that provides practical recommendations for all types and sizes of manufacturers.

“Our investment in this initiative will make it easier for food and beverage manufacturers to meet Canadian food safety and allergen labeling requirements, while helping consumers make informed food-purchasing decisions.”

Full credit where credit is due.


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