MUSKOKA - Shopping for two daughters with a gluten allergy is getting a whole lot easier for Shannon Smith.
The Port Sydney resident is singing praises about a new Health Canada food regulation change which now requires food companies to clearly identify common food allergens on their packaging.
Smith’s daughters, who are 12 and 14, both suffer from Celiac Disease, a condition which does not allow them to ingest anything with wheat, barley, rye or oats.
The regulation change now makes it easier for the Smith family and other locals with allergies to spot ingredients like wheat, sulphites, tree nuts, soy, milk, eggs, sesame seeds seafood and mustard.
Before the regulation change came into effect on August 4, grocery shopping for her daughters involved a lot of homework for Smith.
“I had to always call companies every three months to see if anything’s changed on their product line, because sometimes they’ll use a different facility or a different product line that may have other gluten products, which could contaminate,” she said. “I’ve got lists at home in a binder, I probably have about 100 companies.”
Smith would also have to do research on specific grocery outlets themselves to find out which ones had carried gluten-free products. Though she says there has been a greater awareness of food allergies in the community in recent years, the risk is still very real to both her daughters.
Smith has recorded two serious allergic reactions amongst her daughters in recent memory.
One involved gluten, and another involved an anaphylactic reaction to shellfish.
Between 2003 and 2010, emergency rooms in Simcoe and Muskoka-area hospitals recorded 1,011 visits involving severe allergic reactions. Of those, about 126 each year are due to food allergies, according to the Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit.
The health unit said most patients were children under the age of 10, and praised the regulation changes as a first step towards lowering the number of emergency room visits each year.
For Smith, the changes will also mean a lot more free time.
“You don’t have to do all these extra steps – the phone calls and emails to the company, and waiting for a response back – it saves a lot of time and headaches,” she said. For more information on the new food regulation change, please visit Health Canada’s website at www.hc-sc.gc.ca.