Thomas Paine famously said, “Lead, follow or get out of the way.” Sadly, American regulators appear to have opted for the third, when it comes to labeling for certain allergens. Take gluten. While the U.S. has reportedly been working to create a gluten-free standard, with various deadlines dating as far back as summer of 2008 and further, the country has no standard for gluten-free as of yet.

Meanwhile, the Codex Alimentarius, run by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N., essentially limits the amount of gluten in products labeled as “gluten-free” to 200ppm. (It is 20ppm for products containing intrinsically gluten-free components, but 200ppm for products rendered free of gluten, i.e., certain wheat starches.) However, the major support groups in the U.S., Canada and Europe have no consensus as to the definition of gluten-free. North of the border, for instance, the test presently used by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to determine the gluten content of foods has a sensitivity to a minimum of 20ppm, the current allowable tolerance for Canadian products.

Now, Canadian regulators plan to expand the country’s allergen-labeling efforts. Health Canada has established a new labeling rule for Canadian foods and beverages to “give consumers more detailed information about the presence of allergens, gluten and sulphites in food and drink.” As such, in requirements to be phased in over the next 18 months, the department will require manufacturers to list clearly the presence of such substances and, further, to list the allergens in smaller components of the product, as well. In other words, if a product includes spices, its label must declare if those spices contain allergens or gluten.

Furthermore, CFIA will begin issuing e-mail notifications for all classes of allergy recalls, with anyone interested needing only to register on the CFIA website. So, north of the border will have stronger allergen sensitivity testing and a recall system, where the health agency will e-mail anyone the details of any food or beverage recalled due to allergen concerns? Do not be surprised to see gluten- and allergen-free consumers--even those in the U.S.--turn to this simple, user-friendly and essentially effortless system to learn of recall information. When they do, it would not be shocking to see them, in turn, eliminate those company’s products from their shopping lists in America and elsewhere.

As the SouthPark movie eloquently put it, “Blame Canada.” pf