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Kids and Allergies: Canada looks at stepped-up labeling laws

Submitted by on Friday, 26 September 2008 No Comment

While we debate the meaning of “may contain” versus “manufactured in a facility” in this country, our neighbors to the north are considering far stricter food labeling laws.

A key to the Canadian plan, according to The Daily Observer of Ontario: requiring mandatory “source” declarations, in English and French, for major allergens and gluten.

I had a go-round with source labeling two years back, when Little Guy appeared to be reacting to corn. Which, by the way, is not considering a “major allergen” here, so it isn’t covered by U.S. labeling law at all. Canada expands its list to 10 from the American “Big Eight,” so corn is included.

I knew most manufactured foods were be out during our corn-free days. Try finding something with real sugar instead of the ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup.

I didn’t know what a challenge baking would be. Corn can sneak into baking powder or hide in vanilla flavoring. It’s in the artificial sweetener sorbitol, and can hide in cheese if the manufacturer uses corn starch to dust the packaging. It also can be the source behind citric acid used in many canned fruits and vegetables to prevent spoiling.

So how did I know? I didn’t, and that was the frustrating part. Christmas was closing in, so I wound up spending a ton of money on corn-free baking products at allergygrocer.com. Little Guy’s tests can in clean about a day before I received my shipment of roughly a ton of corn-free powdered sugar. For the record, it works just as well in frostings as the normal variety.

If Canada goes ahead with its plans to require “source labeling,” consumers in that country will feel a lot less frustration in coming years.

It still won’t be enough to satisfy me, though. When you’re dealing with a less-common allergy such as garlic — which Big Guy has — you’re not going to be happy until every ingredient down to the last grain of salt is listed in common, everyday English. Or French, as the case may be.

Allergic or not, consumers deserve to know what’s in their food.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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