Federal Health Minister Tony Clement announced new food labelling regulations Wednesday which will force food manufacturers to list specific allergens, gluten sources and sulphites on the labels of the products they sell.
"Canadians want to know what it is in the packaged food that they eat. They have come to expect detailed information on every label of the products on the grocery store shelves," Clement said at a press conference in Ottawa.
The upcoming changes will mean food labels will have to list any key ingredients in a food item that may have been created with an allergenic substance. Clement said that will include some ingredients that are currently listed as "spice" or "seasoning," for example.
Any allergenic products used to create an ingredient will also have to be listed, Clement said. He used the example of gluten; labels will now have to specify where the gluten comes from, such as barley, wheat or rye.
"These changes will help Canadians manage these allergies and celiac disease," said Clement. "We believe that better information can only lead to better nutrition, and better nutrition, of course, means better health."
Even though the regulations have yet to be implemented, Clement called on the food industry to take action now.
"While these food allergen regulations are being submitted, I'm making a request to the food industry now: improve their labelling for common allergens, sulphites and gluten sources."
The proposed regulations follow Prime Minister Stephen Harper's food and consumer product action plan announced last year.
Last week, federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced new labelling guidelines for food, which will ensure that all foods labelled as products of Canada will contain food that is both produced and processed here.
At Wednesday's press conference, Clement also mentioned changes to the regulation of health products. He said pharmaceutical products will now be closely watched before and after they are approved for sale.
He said that recent reports of adverse drug reactions have highlighted the fact that many new drugs only show serious side effects after they reach the market. The regulations are meant to stop that.