May is – has been – Allergy awareness Month. And I was totally unaware of it until I read an article by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency promoting allergy awareness. To be fair, it seems most of the country’s media were also unaware, as the dateline on the story clearly indicates…
The Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) provided a story, full of Allergy Awareness reference links, to Canada Food News earlier this month. But the story only appeared a few days ago, on May 20. And I never caught the slightest reference to Allergy awareness in any of the news feeds and publications I follow before that. Odd… But it’s indisputably an important topic and I will, herewith, attempt to make up for my own tardiness in bringing it to your attention.
The consumer issue
Canadians and others with severe allergies are constantly trying to avoid foods that can cause dangerous reactions. Some common examples are Nuts, Dairy Products, Seafood and Honey which can quickly result in potentially-deadly anaphylactic systemic shock if not treated immediately on contact with the allergen. Food Allergy Canada (formerly Anaphylaxis Canada), the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, and Leap Learning Technologies have gotten together to create a comprehensive online allergy awareness tool that anybody can use for free. If you have even the slightest allergy to anything, you really should take a few minutes and visit the site. While there, you can also sign up for free allergy information and news via e-mail. And employees can receive a printable certificate, attesting to their having passed the course, to include on their resumées.
The industry issue
Every year, thousands of Canadians – millions around the world – suffer serious, sometimes deadly, allergic attacks because they ate something they shouldn’t have. In many cases in the western world, the allergens the cause attacks are hidden in processed and packaged foods. And that’s in spite of concerted efforts in modern times by western health regulators to ensure that all such foods are properly labelled, flagging allergy risks.
But not all labeling is accurate and, the CFIA stresses, the responsibility for accurate labeling rests with the industry. But there is an strong incentive for the food processing industry to comply fully with Federal food labeling standards.
“Food recalls cost companies valuable time and resources, and put the health of Canadians at risk. (They) can avoid cross-contamination and mislabeling of food products by having an allergen prevention checklist and control plan.”
And the CFIA provides just such a tool on its website. So why do allergens keep falling through the cracks? The CFIA says it’s largely a matter of human error. But the Agency is pushing the industry to be more aware of allergens in their products, to use effective cleaning methods in their plants to prevent cross-contamination and to step up employee training in this crucial area.
Consumers must rely on their own efforts as well as the effectiveness of the industry’s allergy-control measures to safeguard their health. And, to be fair, Canadian Food Processors and packagers already have a pretty good record on the issue of allergies.
Now, you’re aware!
~ Maggie J.