How to Read a Label When You Have Food Allergies (Canada)

in Basics, Fish & Shellfish, Food Allergy, Food Allergy Ask the Allergist, Fruit & Vegetable, Inside Food Allergy, Milk & Egg, Other Food Allergy, Peanut & Tree Nut, Soy & Seed
Published: January 6, 2014

Special Notes
When fish, crustaceans or shellfish are present, manufacturers must specify the type.

Highly refined oils derived from priority allergens, with the exception of peanut oil, do not need to be declared, as these are considered safe because they do not contain the allergenic protein.

In Canada, peanut oil must always be declared, whether highly refined or not.

The source of hydrolyzed (or broken down) plant proteins, starches, modified starches and lecithins must be identified by the common or usual name if they contain a priority allergen. e.g. hydrolyzed soy protein.

– Sulphites must be declared when added directly to a food in any amount. Also, they must be declared when added indirectly as a component of an ingredient if the total amount of sulphites in the finished products is 10 parts per million or more.

Which Products Fall Under These Rules?

– Canada’s allergen labeling regulations apply to prepackaged food sold in Canada.

– There are exceptions – they do not apply to some products prepared and packaged at a retail location; for example, bulk items packaged in a grocery store, or meat and poultry prepared and packaged in the store (e.g. deli roast chicken).

– Most alcohol falls under allergen labeling rules. Exceptions are wine with a vintage date of 2011 and earlier and beer.

– If fruits and vegetables have a protective edible coating or wax containing a major allergen, this must be declared ONLY if the fruit or vegetable has been packaged with a label.

If your allergen is NOT one of the 11 priority allergens, then reading ingredient labels becomes much more difficult.

You will need to get to know the scientific names for your allergen and where it can hide. For example, maltodextrin can be made from corn.

Also, companies are not required to list the components of ingredients such as “natural flavour” or “spice”, if they are not major allergens. Always call the manufacturer to find out what is in these ingredients, and if you’re ever unsure, avoid the food.


If you think you have had a reaction to a food that should have been safe contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

See also: “May contains” on Canadian Food Labels