Health Canada is seeking input from stakeholders and the Canadian public on the proposed principles that will guide the revision of the gluten-free labelling regulations.
The consultation, which will be posted on the Health Canada website and open for comments from May 13 until July 11, is intended to help inform the development of the proposed changes.
The Canadian Food and Drug Regulations currently states that: "No person shall label, package, sell or advertise a food in a manner likely to create an impression that it is a gluten-free food unless the food does not contain wheat, including spelt and kamut, or oats, barley, rye or triticale or any part thereof." In addition, "gluten-free" is not permitted on packaged food products containing oats; even if the oats are pure and uncontaminated with other cereals.
Until recently, oats were thought to cause adverse effects in individuals with celiac disease. However, Health Canada's recent review of the safety of consuming pure oats indicates that the majority of people with celiac disease can tolerate moderate amounts of oats that are pure and uncontaminated with other cereals. Current scientific knowledge also suggests that pure oats can be beneficial to those individuals with celiac disease who tolerate it, and its palatability and nutritional benefits may increase compliance with a gluten-free diet. For these reasons, Health Canada recognizes the importance in revising the gluten-free labelling requirements in order to provide better information to consumers with celiac disease.
Celiac disease is an inherited medical condition where the surface of the small intestine is damaged by gluten, a group of proteins found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. This damage causes the body to be unable to absorb nutrients such as protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, which are necessary for good health. Currently, the only treatment for celiac disease is to follow a strict gluten-free diet.
Health Canada will continue to update Canadians on the progress of this issue once the consultation period has concluded. Please visit the Health Canada website for more information on the proposed principles that will guide the revision of the gluten-free labelling regulations in Canada ( http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/consultation/init/gluten2010/index-eng.php ).
To increase awareness of celiac disease in Canada, Health Canada, in collaboration with the Canadian Celiac Association (CCA) and the Fondation Quebecoise de la Maladie Coeliaque (FQMC), has published a pamphlet entitled: Celiac Disease - The Gluten Connection ( http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/pubs/securit/gluten_conn-lien_gluten-eng.php).
For further information, please visit Health Canada's webpage on celiac disease ( http://www.healthcanada.gc.ca/celiac).