Taking the cap off an EpiPen incorrectly when treating a severe food allergy could potentially result in failure to deliver the drug, the distributor of the device says.

Health Canada said Friday that Pfizer Canada, distributor of the EpiPen and EpiPen Jr autoinjectors, says the blue safety cap on the device should be removed by pulling the cap straight up while holding the orange tip downward. 

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About four per cent of Canadians have food allergies, according to Statistics Canada. (Stock)

"It has recently come to our attention that removal of the blue safety cap the wrong way by pulling it sideways or bending and twisting it off may prevent the device from working properly and potentially result in failure to deliver the drug," the company said in a release Thursday.

The company also said patients should:

  • Continue to carry their EpiPen or EpiPen Jr at all times.
  • The blue safety cap should not be removed until you need to use the medication.

Patients are advised to review the safety information regularly and check that the device hasn’t been unintentionally activated, Health Canada said.

EpiPen are pre-filled, single-use devices that automatically inject an epinephrine solution for the emergency treatment of severe allergic reactions including anaphylaxis.

Carrying an auto-injector can be life-saving if someone runs into trouble and has a severe allergic reaction, said Laurie Harada, executive director of Anaphylaxis Canada.

"It's surprising how many people have been diagnosed with food allergy, been told to carry an autoinjector and they don't have it with them or they don't know how to use it," Harada told CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

Harada also recommended that people with food allergies take care to read food labels and to always ask about what’s in foods.

Harada, the mother of an 18-year-old who has had several food allergies since he was a child, suggested that hosts of holiday parties also ask people if they have any food allergies before preparing items and to try to accommodate them.

Hosts can also ask people to bring their own dish and keep food labels on hand.