AAIA Living with Food Allergies AB Agric Feb 21_12


Exploring the Allergic and

Gluten-Free Marketplace

Living with Food Allergies

February 21, 2012

The Allergy/Asthma

Information Association


The AAIA across Canada

National Office in Toronto

AAIA Atlantic

AIAA Québec

AAIA Ontario

AAIA Prairies/NWT/Nunavut



Our focus

3 A’s

A = Allergy

A = Asthma

A = Anaphylaxis

A = Awareness

Our motto

3 A’s

A = Avoidance

A = Action


We provide services across Canada:







Our members

Most AAIA members are parents of children with severe food allergies, e.g. peanut, nuts, milk, egg, shellfish….

A significant proportion have more than one food allergy

Many have persistent milk and egg allergies

Most find avoidance measures stressful

Brand loyal consumers


Our approach to food allergy

Teaching the essential “food rules” and a risk management approach


What is food allergy?

An immune system reaction to a normally harmless substance (allergen)

 A

ffects 7.5% (2.5 million) Canadians

Results from interaction of genetic tendency and sensitization

Cannot be cured but can usually be controlled


Allergy Statistics

One in 13 Canadians suffer from a significant food allergy

1.93% with peanut allergy

2.36% with tree nut allergy

0.99% with fish allergy

3.02% with shellfish allergy

0.19% with sesame allergy

Dr. Ann Clarke, Allergy Researcher, McGill University, 2010


What Is Anaphylaxis?

Potentially life-threatening allergic reaction requiring immediate treatment

Affecting about 2% of Canadians

Involving more than one body system


Typical triggers include insect stings, medication, food, natural latex

Trace amounts can cause a severe or even fatal reaction

Cannot be cured

– avoidance is key


Ten Most Common Food Triggers


Tree nuts

Shellfish / Seafood









*Sulfites are a food additive


Recognizing Ingredients

 Milk:

casein, sodium caseinate, whey, lactose, lactalbumin, cream, butter, other

“lact” words ...

 Eggs:

albumin, conalbumin, globulin, livetin, lecithin, lysozyme, ovalbumin, other “ovo’ words …

 Wheat:

kamut, spelt, triticale, semolina, farina, bulgur, couscous, durum, einkorn, emmer, seitan, bran, flour, germ, starch, gluten …


Lactose Intolerance

Not an allergy, actually a lactase enzyme deficiency

Symptoms involve digestive system only

(abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea)

Symptoms do not occur if lactose-free dairy product is ingested or if the person takes lactase tablets at mealtimes



Celiac disease is a specific form of allergy

(immune-mediated, but not IgE-mediated)

Treatment involves following a strict gluten-free diet (approx. 1% of population affected)

Digestive system and skin adversely affected by even a tiny amount of gluten ingestion

Gluten is the protein found in cereal grains; wheat, barley, rye, oats


Alcoholic Beverages

Alcohol with nuts


eg. Amaretto (almond);

Bombay Sapphire Gin (almond);

Frangelico (hazelnut); Kahana Royale

(macadamia); Nocino (walnut); Southern

Comfort (nut derivative); some vodkas mixed with nut ingredients.

Alcohol with eggs: Bols Advokat

Alcohol with milk: creamy liqueurs, Baileys

Alcohol with wheat/gluten: beer, whiskey,


Alcohol with sulphites: beer, wine, cider


Risk Management

Understanding food labels and assessing risk are complex tasks

Different levels of risk tolerance

Many patients demand 100% certainty, but

100% risk-free is impossible

Brand loyal consumers

– consistency important for risk avoidance


Managing food allergies

Much progress has been made - peanut allergy is now relatively well understood by the public

Some allergens harder to avoid than others, e.g. milk , soy

More information available today

– but increased awareness of minor risks may bring more stress

Allergic consumers, manufacturers, retailers and food servers share the responsibility



The transfer of an ingredient (food allergen) to a product that does not normally have that ingredient in it. A food that should not contain the allergen could become dangerous for someone who is allergic. It can happen:

during food manufacturing

…shared production/packaging equipment

at retail

through shared equipment…deli slicer for cheese/meat during

food preparation … equipment, utensils,



Preventing Allergic Reactions

Prevention is key. Food safety for consumers depends on safe and reliable manufacturing practices.

Work with suppliers to ensure they have stringent allergen management processes

Develop and maintain good manufacturing practices

Understand food labelling regulations

Clear and accurate info on food labels is essential

Avoid using alternative names for food ingredients


Current Issues

“May contain” phrasing

Is it overused in Canada on products with low risk?

Clear criteria and standards needed for the use of the various formats of this phrasing

Don’t eliminate it totally; better to have a warning than not.

Make it consistent and relevant; use for real risks

Such warnings suggest this product may not be the best choice for you - ultimate decision is still up to the consumer


Current Issues

… continued

Allergen Claims on Front

Danger that people will rely on this and not read the ingredient list

Negative versus Positive claims

What does “peanut free” mean – this may not be obvious to caregivers who may assume it includes all nuts


Current Issues

… continued


…which version is it?

When a brand is marketed as being allergen free in one format but not in another, allergic consumers and caregivers are confused

(eg. chocolate bars)

This is increasingly an issue in the marketplace and needs attention

Frequent changes lead to confusion


Current Issues…continued

Crowded Labels

With more nutrition information on the label there is not a lot of room

Important to keep allergy info in an easy- to-read and easy- to-find format

Make sure allergen info is on outside as well as individual packaging

Grocery shopping is already very time consuming for allergy sufferers

– clarity is important!


Issues facing someone with allergies

Limited products that are available and safe, especially when multiple allergens need to be avoided

Many allergic consumers ignore “may contain” disclaimer as many foods that should be “safe” will have warning

Confusing label

– peanut free symbol does not mean nut free


Specific needs of someone with allergies

Clear & accurate ingredient labels

Readily available and reasonably priced food products that are “safe”

Need to avoid bulk food items (cross contamination & labeling concerns)

Peanut free diet - usually need to avoid tree nuts as well


Allergy friendly products

SunButter (sunflower seed spread)

NoNuts Golden Peabutter (golden brown peas spread)

Chapman’s Ice Cream

Guardian Angel Foods chocolate

Dare cookie products

Quaker granola bars

Peak Freans LifeStyle biscuits

Fleischmann’s Lactose-free margarine


What products are on the wish list?

Greatest demand for products free from: peanut, tree nut, milk, egg & soy

Milk free, egg free & nut free breads

Ice cream free from peanut/nut/egg/soy

Chocolate chips free from milk, soy, peanut/nut

Coconut free from peanut/nut

Milk free/soy free margarine

Frozen fruit dessert alternative to ice cream for milk allergic consumer


How can food industry help?

Create new allergy friendly food products

Reformulate existing products for allergic consumers

Dedicated facilities for allergen free products

Provide ingredient list as clear and readable as nutrition facts table

Avoid “may contain” disclaimer statement except when valid or needed (not as a generic legal disclaimer)

Disclaimer overused on low risk products-difficult for consumer to accurately assess risk



Allergen avoidance is a shared responsibility among consumers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers and food servers

Opportunity for Alberta food producers to capitalize on “free from” market

Readily available and reasonably priced safe food products

– an achievable goal benefiting the allergic consumer


Connecting Canadians with Allergies,

Asthma & Anaphylaxis from Coast to Coast

Lilly Byrtus

AAIA Regional Office

16531-114 Street

Edmonton, AB T5X 3V6 [email protected]


AAIA National Office

295 The West Mall, Suite 118

Toronto, ON M9C 4Z4