OTTAWA – Regulations to strengthen Canada's labeling of food allergens and gluten sources were announced Feb. 14 by Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, and Royal Galipeau, Member of Parliament for Ottawa-Orléans. As a result, Canadians with food allergies, sensitivities and celiac disease will soon be able to make more informed choices about the foods they buy. The Ministers also unveiled what the food label will look like.

Because of the complexity of the changes and the shelf-life of foods, industry has been given 18 months to implement the new allergen labeling regulations. The coming into force date is set for Aug. 4, 2012.

"Our government is committed to protecting children and families from dangerous products, and this is clear from the measures we have taken in our new Consumer Product Safety Act," Aglukkaq said. "All parents want to have confidence in the food they are serving their families, and these changes to food labels will make it easier for parents of children with food allergies to identify potentially harmful, if not fatal, ingredients in foods."

Estimates reveal approximately 5% to 6% of young children and 3% to 4% of adults suffer from food allergies. Approximately 1% of the population is affected by celiac disease, for whom the consumption of foods containing gluten can lead to long-term complications.

The new regulations will require additional labeling and strengthen the labeling requirements to require clearer language and the declaration of otherwise "hidden" allergens, gluten sources and sulphites.

Visit Health Canada's website for details on the final regulatory amendments on labelling regulations for food allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites.