Universal Journal of Public Health Vol. 3(1), pp. 41 - 48
DOI: 10.13189/ujph.2015.030106
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Canadian Policy on Food Allergen Labelling: Consumers' Perspectives Regarding Unmet Needs

Kristin M. Brown 1,*, Nancy E. Fenton 2, Larry D. Lynd 3, Carlo A. Marra 3, Mark J. Fitzgerald 4, Stephanie S. Harvard 5, Meagan Rosenthal 6, Bonnie Y. L. Chow 7, Ann E. Clarke 8, Susan J. Elliott 7
1 School of Public Health and Health Systems, University of Waterloo, Canada
2 McMaster Institute for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching and Learning, McMaster University, Canada
3 Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of British Columbia, Canada
4 Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Evaluation, Canada
5 School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Canada
6 EPICORE Center, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
7 Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Canada
8 Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Canada


It is estimated that 50% of Canadian households are directly or indirectly affected by food allergies. Since accidental exposure to food allergens can cause life-threatening reactions, the need for accurate allergen labelling is key. In Canada, new food allergen labelling guidelines were mandated in August 2012. While a substantial improvement, gaps remain. This study explored the perspectives of directly affected individuals as well as members of the general public regarding their needs and preferences for precautionary labelling, allergen symbols, and suggestions for improving labelling practices in Canada. Eight qualitative focus groups were conducted with directly affected (n=27) and general public (n=24) consumers in Vancouver, Canada. Focus groups were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim for subsequent thematic analysis using NVivo9. Although "may contain" is recommended by Health Canada, it was the least preferred precautionary statement among research participants. Both participant groups described how many consumers' purchasing habits are indirectly affected by food allergy; hence, their views should be considered in addition to those of directly affected individuals when developing allergen labelling policies. The findings identify future policy needs: 1) mandating and standardizing precautionary/allergen statements and symbols, 2) increased monitoring, and 3) increasing food allergy education and awareness among consumers and manufacturers.

Food Allergy, Food Label, Advisory Labelling, Consumer Preferences

Cite this paper
Kristin M. Brown , Nancy E. Fenton , Larry D. Lynd , Carlo A. Marra , Mark J. Fitzgerald , Stephanie S. Harvard , Meagan Rosenthal , Bonnie Y. L. Chow , Ann E. Clarke , Susan J. Elliott (2015). Canadian Policy on Food Allergen Labelling: Consumers' Perspectives Regarding Unmet Needs. Universal Journal of Public Health, 3 , 41 - 48. doi: 10.13189/ujph.2015.030106.