Food Allergies

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.

Representatives from Health Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), allergy associations and the medical community have identified ten substances most frequently associated with food allergies and allergic-type reactions. These substances are often referred to as the ten priority food allergens and include eggs, milk, mustard,  peanuts, seafood (including fish, crustaceans and shellfish), sulphites, sesame, soy, tree nuts, and wheat and other cereal grains containing gluten.

Information for Consumers

Health Canada and the CFIA work together to provide information to consumers and the food industry, and have created a series of pamphlets with information on each of the priority food allergens:

Other information on severe allergic reactions can be found on the Health Canada website in an It's Your Health bulletin.

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.

In This Topic

Allergen Labelling

On February 16th, 2011 Health Canada Published Amendments to the Food Allergen Labelling Regulations in Canada Gazette, Part II (CGII)

Canada's new food allergen labelling regulations came into force on August 04, 2012

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. However, some ingredients used in food products which were previously exempt from declaration in the list of ingredients, (e.g., components of margarine, seasoning and flour) will now be required to appear on food labels also.

Health Canada has worked with the medical community, consumer associations, and the food industry to enhance labelling requirements for priority allergens, gluten sources and sulphite in pre-packaged foods sold in Canada. Proposed new regulations will strengthen labelling requirements by requiring 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.

Health Canada published its proposed regulatory amendments in Canada Gazette, Part I, on July 26, 2008 to allow for public comment. Health Canada took into consideration all comments received until November 28, 2008 before bringing the final regulations forward and publishing them in the Canada Gazette, Part II. For more details on Canada's new food allergen labelling regulations, and other information on food allergen labelling, please see Health Canada's Allergen Labelling webpage.

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 crustacean tropomyosins. These methods were transferred to CFIA laboratories for use in their compliance program with regards to the presence of undeclared allergens in foods.

Follow this link for more information on the research being conducted by Health Canada's Food Allergen Program.

Join Health Canada's Food Allergies e-Notice, a free service to stay on top of issued advice as well as regulatory and scientific developments in the area of food allergens and intolerances in Canada.

For more information on food allergies, you may contact one of the following groups:

Some of these hyperlinks provide access to Web sites of organizations not subject to the  Official Languages Act. The information found there is therefore in the language of the site.

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