Common food allergens

Priority allergens

Severe allergic reactions (e.g. anaphylactic reaction) occur when the body's immune system strongly reacts to a particular allergenic protein or irritant. These reactions may be caused by food, insect stings and medications.

Health Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), allergy associations, and the medical community have identified the key substances most frequently associated with food allergies and allergic-type reactions. These substances are often referred to as priority food allergens.  Health Canada and CFIA have developed a series of pamphlets with information for consumers about each of the priority allergens:  

Did you know...

When the CFIA becomes aware of a potential serious hazard associated with a food, such as undeclared allergens, the food product is recalled from the marketplace and a public warning is issued. Allergy alerts are posted on the CFIA website.

Allergen Labelling

The Food and Drug Regulations require that most pre-packaged foods carry a label and that their ingredients appear in a list in decreasing order of proportion.

Health Canada has worked with the medical community, allergy associations, and the food industry to enhance labelling requirements for priority allergens, gluten sources and sulphite in pre-packaged foods sold in Canada. Canadian labelling regulations require that the most common food, and food ingredients which can cause life-threatening or severe allergic reactions, are always identified by their common names so that consumers can easily recognize them on food labels. For more details on Canada's food allergen labelling regulations, and other information on food allergen labelling, please see Health Canada's Allergen Labelling web page.

Allergen Research

Laboratory methods are required to detect undeclared allergens in food. In the early 1990's, Health Canada began a pioneering method development program, which resulted in methods for the detection of peanut, soy, milk, egg, hazelnut, Brazil nut, and crustaceans. These methods were transferred to CFIA laboratories for use in their compliance program with regards to the presence of undeclared allergens in foods. Find out more about Health Canada's food allergen research program.

Did you know...

You can sign up to receive Health Canada's Food Allergies e-Notice to stay on top of the latest advice as well as regulatory and scientific developments in the area of food allergens and intolerances in Canada.

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