Oats can now make gluten-free claim in Canada

By Sue Newell, CCA

Oat flakes on white background

Health Canada announced regulatory changes that will allow a gluten-free claim for specially produced or processed oats that are free from wheat, rye, barley, or their hybridized strains, and for foods containing these oats. Details about these changes, an updated position paper and other important information can be found on Health Canada’s Website.

The Canadian Celiac Association supports this decision to allow gluten-free claims for specially produced gluten-free oats and products containing such oats. The Canadian Celiac Association Professional Advisory Council Position Statement on Consumption of Oats by Individuals with Celiac Disease is available on www.celiac.ca.

Health Canada’s Marketing Authorization permits the gluten-free claim for oats if they meet the following criteria:

  1. The food contains no oats other than specially produced “gluten-free oats”;
  2. The finished product does not contain greater than 20 ppm of gluten from wheat, rye, barley or their hybridized strains;
  3. The food contains no intentionally added gluten from wheat, rye, barley, or their hybridized strains; and
  4. The “gluten-free oats” are clearly identified as such in all cases where ‘oats’ are referenced, including in the list of ingredients.

Manufacturers who want to make a gluten-free claim on pure oats or products made with pure oats are responsible for ensuring those oats meet the criteria outlined in the Marketing Authorization. If a product is marketed as gluten-free and contains oats that do not meet the criteria, it will be subject to enforcement actions by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

Barley Grass and Wheat Grass Can Now Be Labelled Gluten Free

wheat grass

By Lance Hill, Food Policy Liaison Officer – Health Canada, BC Region
in response to Ellen Bayens‘ investigation regarding Wheat & Barley Grass

wheat grass

Wheat Grass (Photo: Wikipedia)

“With the coming in to effect on August 4, 2012 of the enhanced labeling regulations for allergens and gluten sources and sulphites, and the resulting modification of section B.24.018 of the Food Regulation it became permissible for a food that contains no gluten protein, modified gluten protein or protein fraction, to be labelled gluten free. See here for full details on the amendments: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/label-etiquet/allergen/index-eng.php

It is understood that gluten protein is found in the seed portion of barley and wheat, and is absent in the grass portion. If harvest of wheat and barley grass is done prior to formation of seed, expectations are that no gluten should be present. Concerns have been expressed in the past with respect to how does one ensure this is always the case and that no seeds have formed prior to harvest and no opportunity has been provided for cross-contamination between grass and seeds at the producer level and through handling and processing.

Recognizing that prior to August 4th, labeling products containing wheat or barley grass as ‘gluten-free’ would not have been permissible, we are very much still breaking new ground as we move forward in this area. I am not aware of any guidelines at this point that would assist or stipulate the design of controls or a program to ensure these products are always gluten-free. It would however be prudent to have some program in place that would provide for regular monitoring of ingredient until such time as a satisfactory history is developed and which might provide for less frequent checks on an ongoing basis for supplier verification.

In short, from my contact with Food Directorate at Health Canada and program staff with CFIA, I can advise that when barley grass and/or wheat grass, contain less than 20 ppm gluten and are used ingredients in a food that contains no gluten protein, modified gluten protein or protein fraction, then the food is permitted to be labelled gluten free.

Readers should also be aware of the following documents:

Health Canada’s Position on Gluten-Free Claims

Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Compliance and Enforcement of Gluten-Free Claims

Health Canada updates guidance document to industry on “gluten-free”

It is now official!

Below is a link to the long-awaited guidance document to industry on gluten-free claims by Health Canada.

A very quick summary notes that products that do not exceed 20 ppm, and manufactured under ‘Good Manufacturing Practices’, are deemed to meet the intent of B.24.018 when a gluten-free claim is made.


This link will be posted on the CCA websites.  We will also be taking efforts to inform the industry and consumer/patient groups.

Jim McCarthy,

Advisor, Canadian Celiac Association

Beer industry tries to derail new labelling law

by Jim McCarthy

Health and safety of millions of Canadians at stake over a beer?

Canadians should be plenty worried when the deep pockets of the brewing industry put the lives of 2.8 million of us at risk. Food and beverage labelling amendments have taken more than a decade to get to the stage where they are about to become law but now could be killed at the highest level because of the influence of Canada’s beer industry. People with food allergies and celiac disease absolutely have to know what ingredients are added to everything they consume.

The current government promised Canadian consumers more than two years ago to plug the holes in our labeling regulations and invited consumer and patient support groups to a press conference with then-minister Tony Clement to announce the good news. Might that same government now betray its vulnerable citizens? What will it take to make our government and Ottawa lobbyists understand that Canadians have a right to know if their food and drink are safe? How many visits to the ER, how many work days lost, how many deaths will it take? Just a few facts:

  • 12% of allergic/gluten reactions need to be treated in emergency rooms
  • 14,000 allergy-related visits in the last year required 400 hospital stays
  • Emergency and hospital visits cost Canadians over $5 million per year
  • The overall household cost of food allergy/gluten reactions is over $5 billion per year

The Canadian Celiac Association (CCA) members are shocked that the beer industry is now criticizing Health Canada’s proposed new labelling of foods and beverages. The beer industry, along with all of Canada’s food industry, has been in consultation with Health Canada for over 10 years about the labelling of allergens in foods. “I have to live with celiac disease every day” says Janet Dalziel, a diagnosed Celiac and CCA President, adding “I expect all the necessary information to be on food and beverage labels to make daily decisions on what is safe to consume”.

A B.C. member wrote, “My daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease at age 2 and a half (4 years ago). All her symptoms disappear when she adheres to her diet. The only time she is ‘glutened’ now is from foods that are not labelled properly or cross-contaminated. This legislation is so important for people like Hannah. Every time she is glutened she loses time in school, I lose time from work, and it costs the health care system in visits and tests.”

The beer industry has had ample time to plan for labelling changes. These new regulations will not require a warning statement, as they have stated, and beer will still retain its exemption from complete ingredient labelling, an exemption that the alcoholic beverage industry has enjoyed for decades. The only information they will be required to include on the beer label is the presence of sulphites (if over 10 ppm) and the gluten sources, wheat, barley and rye.

The Canadian Celiac Association and allergy associations in Canada have been working diligently with Health Canada for over 10 years to have legislation passed that will enable Canadians to see, on each and every label, exactly what allergens are present in foods and beverages. This legislation is far too important for Canadians to let the beer industry put it off the rails. The health and safety of millions of Canadians is at stake.

Read an article about the beer industry in the Vancouver Sun.

Heath Canada seeks input on labeling requirements

Health Canada is reviewing Canada’s current gluten-free labelling policy in order to minimize the risk of inadvertent consumption of gluten by sensitive individuals and to maximize the choice of gluten- free foods for consumers following a gluten-free diet. The following principles have been proposed in order to guide this work:

  • Canada’s gluten-free labelling policy should reflect the fact that consumers following a GFD for medical reasons must not consume the protein fraction of certain cereal grains.
  • Health Canada’s gluten-free labelling policy should be mindful and protective of the minority of individuals with CD who do not tolerate the consumption of uncontaminated oats.
  • This policy should reflect that Health Canada recommends that those individuals and/or practitioners interested in introducing oats to people with CD or dermatitis herpetiformis are advised to consult physicians, dietitians and health practitioners before the introduction of oats to the gluten-free diet.
  • Health Canada’s gluten-free labelling policy should take into consideration the proposed regulatory amendments to enhance the labelling of allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites in pre-packaged foods as well as Health Canada’s ongoing review of precautionary labelling of pre-packaged foods in order to promote consistency and minimize consumer confusion.

Health Canada is currently seeking feedback from the public on these proposed principles. In addition, we would like to know if there are other issues that should be considered with regards to potential changes to Canada’s gluten-free labelling policy.

The feedback received through this consultation will be considered by Health Canada as it moves forward with developing options for potential revisions to Canada’s gluten-free labelling policy.

Health Canada will undertake further consultation with stakeholders once potential options have been developed.

For more information, please click here. (PDF)