As a business owner in the food industry, you want to keep your customers healthy, happy, and coming back for more. Proper allergen labels on food can make all the difference when it comes to a customer’s experience. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency provides food industry businesses with easy-to-follow guidelines for clear and safe food labelling.
Most packaged foods that are sold to the public require labels, but non-packaged foods like fresh produce and confections such as chocolate or bakery cupcakes may not. If you’re selling packaged goods that do require a label, Canada’s labelling guidelines checklist is a great tool for making sure your labels contain all the necessary elements, such as nutrition information, ingredients, and an allergen statement.
Your packaged food product may contain one or more of the currently recognized priority allergens. Common priority allergens like peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, and milk must be declared in your ingredients list. It’s important to list your ingredients in descending order of amount: ingredients that make up the largest portion of your food should come first, and the ingredients present in the smallest amounts should come last. This is helpful for consumers with food sensitivities, but not full-blown allergies. Some people can consume an ingredient in small amounts without having a reaction.
Even if your product only contains priority allergens in trace amounts, or in second- or third-generation ingredients, you still must declare these allergens on the label. If you haven’t listed them in your ingredients, they should be listed in an allergen statement. An allergen statement should be highly visible on the label and should identify the priority allergens that are present in the product. For example, your label could say: "Contains peanuts," "Contains trace amounts of shellfish," or "Processed in a facility that also processes peanuts."
Clear allergen labelling helps consumers make informed decisions about your products and helps your company avoid customer mishaps and the related costs. The labelling process can also help you better understand where the allergens in your foods originate and possibly work toward eliminating some of those allergens to widen your customer base.