Taking Action to Ensure Safe Food Options for Canadians Living With Food Allergy

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Food allergy is a serious public health issue affecting over three million Canadians, including a staggering 600,000 children. Additionally, one in two households nationwide is affected by this condition, making the impact far greater.

For those managing food allergies, accurate ingredient information is the key to identifying safe food options and, consequently, steering clear of a severe allergic reaction. It’s not about preference; it’s about necessity.

A nationally registered charity committed to educating, supporting, and advocating for the millions of Canadians with food allergies, a key area of focus for Food Allergy Canada is to make it easier to access accurate ingredient information, ensuring the safety and well-being of those with food allergies.

As the only patient organization that supports the food allergy community nationally, the organization’s work proves that information can be a life-saving tool—however, challenges persist. Understanding labels, especially those unclear “may contain” statements, can be perplexing. To add to the confusion, timely notifications regarding product recalls due to mislabelling on pre-packaged products are vital but often fall short. The challenge continues in food service establishments and restaurants, where acquiring ingredient information can be a hurdle.

Food Allergy Canada is not content with merely identifying these hurdles; they’re actively engaged in discussions with the government and the food industry to raise awareness and galvanize actions to change the lives of millions.

food allergy
© Courtesy of Food Allergy Canada

A recent example of this work is the collaboration the organization led with Maple Leaf Foods, Université Laval and food industry partners to develop a landmark food safety resource—Allergen Management Guidelines for Food Manufacturers—reflecting the industry’s best practices.

Supported in part by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership’s AgriAssurance Program, this compendium comprises comprehensive guidelines, training modules, and ancillary tools. It’s freely available to Canadian Food Manufacturers, empowering them to better manage allergens in their operations. This translates to a potential increase in safe food options, clear and understandable labelling for the affected community, and unwavering support for this consumer base.

Join the movement for safer, more inclusive food practices. Visit foodallergycanada.ca/AllergenGuidelines to download the free allergen guidelines, training tools and resources!

Celebrate the Holidays with Confidence: Hosting with Food Allergies in Mind

The holidays are an exciting time of gatherings, whether you are celebrating with family, friends or co-workers. For people managing food allergy, holiday parties also means taking a few extra steps in planning. To help manage the holidays confidently, check out these tips and visit foodallergycanada.ca/holidays for more information, including downloadable resources you can share with others.

Tip 1: Ask, ask, and ask!
  • Which foods must be avoided – people may be allergic to one food or have multiple food allergies, and they may not be allergic to common foods like peanut.
  • How to make food that is safe – share your menu plan and ask how to prepare food safely, and which brands may be best.
  • Can you bring food for yourself/your child – it’s okay to ask guests to bring food that is safe for them to eat.
Tip 2: Buy safe food 
  • Read the ingredient labels of pre-packaged food every time – ingredients can change. Read the whole list of ingredients, not just the “Contains” statement or the “Free from” statements.
  • Don’t serve products: with “may contain” statements, without an ingredient label, or if the label is in a language you don’t understand.
Tip 3: Prepare and serve food safely
  • Cross-contamination can happen when a food allergen accidentally gets into another food or onto a surface or object. For example, egg remnants on a spatula can get transferred to a meal without egg when you use that spatula to serve the meal. 
  • To help minimize risks:
    • Wash hands before and after preparing food 
    • Clean surfaces, like counters and tables, and use clean cookware/utensils when preparing food 
    • With buffet-style meals, make sure that each dish has its own serving utensil 
    • Don’t serve foods from bulk bins in case of cross-contamination with bin scoops/tongs 
    • Have everyone wash hands before and after eating 
    • Make sure guests don’t share food, napkins, dishware, cups, and utensils
Tip 4: Understand anaphylaxis and know how to treat it
  • Accidents can happen, learn to identify signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Visit foodallergycanada.ca/reaction to learn more about the signs and symptoms.
  • Treat anaphylaxis with epinephrine auto-injectors like EpiPen® and ALLERJECT®. Epinephrine is the only treatment for anaphylaxis. Do not use antihistamines like Benadryl® to treat a serious allergic reaction, it will not reverse the symptoms of the reaction.

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Food Allergy Canada is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping Canadians with food allergy live with confidence.

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