Does it seem to you that our regulatory bodies in North America are having a hard time keeping up with all of the new science and studies regarding food allergies, Celiac disease and intolerances?
I subscribe to a multitude of publications on food allergies and intolerances along with updates from the food manufacturing world that are based all over the world so that I have an overview of both North American and International News. I can barely keep up as every day I get information overload. Publications that never used to pay any attention to food allergies/intolerances just a couple of short years ago now have a headline in each new document about testing, recalls, breakthrough studies and more. But if I, who admittedly has a very vested interest both professionally and personally, can barely keep up, what about our government bureaucracies?
Case in point: Health Canada issued a position statement in 2008 that informed those with Celiac disease and gluten intolerance that pure oats (uncontaminated by the harmful gluten in wheat, barley and rye) were suitable for most gluten free diets. The statement also suggested that pure oats would be welcomed by gluten avoiders because of the great nutrition and enjoyment that pure oats would bring to gluten free diets. BUT… (here’s the fun part) any product with pure oats is not allowed to be called gluten free in Canada. We can’t even call our facility a gluten free facility to Canadians (Americans are another matter, but I digress) because that might imply that oats are gluten free, which is against the current labeling laws.
It means we must have separate packaging, separate brochures and, what I’m working on today, is separating our website into an American section and a Canadian section so that one set will meet Canadian laws while another set will meet US laws. So how can Health Canada issue a statement saying 95% of those on gluten free diets can have pure oats on one hand but not allow a hint of “gluten free” to pass the lips of any Canadian manufacturer using pure oats?
The bottom line is an antiquated Canadian labeling law that specified that any item containing wheat, barley, rye or oats could not be called gluten free. So while Health Canada has reviewed the latest in science regarding pure oats and gluten free diets, the wheels grind slowly and the labeling law is creaking along behind.
We’ve been informed that there is a finally a light at the end of the tunnel that we hope is not an oncoming train. At the Canadian Celiac Association’s annual conference in May, there is a seminar on the Sunday morning outlining the certification of pure oats and the possibility of gluten free oats labeling in Canada. I will be at that seminar but I’m not holding my breath just yet (I’m getting cynical given that we’ve been riding this bandwagon of pure oats since April 2007). Ideally, I do hope to be able to stop having a split personality when discussing pure oats (Canada) and gluten free oats (US).
But then what will I do with my time? Maybe I can focus on supporting further changes to the labeling laws that differ between the 2 countries on natural regulations, sesame allergen labeling, trans fats, daily value of iron… ? Hmmm, on second thought, I think I’d better go put more work in on writing those pages for the website separation.