Canada’s list of top allergens already included peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, soy, wheat and sulphites.
Health Canada also developed criteria with which it can assess new potential priority allergens in the future. “That is important because that now says there’s a standard to follow,” says Marilyn Allen, a food allergy consultant to Health Canada and Food Allergy Canada.
Severity, Not Just Frequency
The criteria say that when evaluating a potential priority allergen, Health Canada will examine the severity of reactions to a food, the data available on the prevalence of allergic reactions to it, as well as the level of exposure to the food in Canada. Staff will also research what other countries are including on their priority allergen lists.
The addition of mustard to the allergy list is a good example of the process. That allergy isn’t particularly widespread, but reactions that have occurred have been severe, and mustard is used in many products in Canada and is easily hidden behind words like “spice,” Allen says.
The move to include mustard on the priority list will help people with mustard allergy and their families identify what foods are safe to eat. “It will make our lives easier in terms of labeling,” says Julie Mototsune. She’s had to avoid everything from soups to potato chips to prepared meats because of her son’s mustard allergy.