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Dear Prime Minister Harper,

You recently promised important changes to ensure that products labelled “Made in Canada” really are Canadian. I am writing today to urge you to address another area of food industry labelling that needs your immediate attention. At stake are the very lives of children.

The listing of priority allergens on food packages requires considerable improvement to protect over one million Canadians with life-threatening food allergies, most of whom are kids. Equally affected are thousands more Canadians with celiac disease. Currently, allergen labelling is only a set of guidelines; it needs to be enshrined in law, and it needs greater scope and clarity.

The good news is that change is easily accomplished. The amendments to the Food and Drugs Act that would rectify these labelling problems are ready and waiting; they’ve been languishing at Health Canada since 2006. Clearly, the food allergy community needs your help to finally get them passed. Just as you so successfully have done on the “Product of Canada” issue,

I respectfully urge that you champion the food allergy label amendments.

Just how dangerous is life without them? While the proposed amendments would require manufacturers to list ingredients on labels in plain English or French, currently many companies list scientific names. Imagine having a child with a milk allergy and being expected to know that an ingredient called “sodium caseinate” actually means “milk protein”? Or with egg allergy, that “albumin” and “lysozyme” are actually “egg”. This is a risky business when even trace amounts can cause an anaphylactic reaction.

As well, there are mystery ingredients. Consumers can’t possibly know what allergens might be contained when a label lists “hydrolyzed protein” or “natural flavour”. Additionally, food packages often fail to declare when one of the top 10 allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, soy, wheat, shellfish, fish, sesame and sulphites) is a “hidden” ingredient – a component of another ingredient. This problem, too, would be addressed if the amendments were law.

[ Your comments here ]

The Canadian food allergy and celiac communities watched as the United States in January 2006 passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act and protected its citizens. All that we ask, Mr. Prime Minister, is that you do no less for us. Please make the food allergy amendments a priority for Canadian adults with food allergies and celiac disease, and for the many families and schools affected by the inability to depend on current food labels.

And do it for all the Canadian kids with food allergies, the ones who’ve grown up learning to read labels as soon as they can spell their names.

Sincerely,
[ Your name will appear here ]

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