Health Canada wants to hear from you: Survey and public consultations on labelling for personal care products
Health Canada is currently seeking feedback back from Canadians on a new initiative to improve regulation of self-care products in Canada. These products include: natural health products (such as supplements), cosmetics and non-prescription drugs. The survey is an opportunity to raise the issue of allergen labelling for these products, which is currently not required.
Take the survey and let Health Canada know what you think. Let them know that ingredient lists and labels for priority allergens should be required — and if you have had an issue or a reaction from a product that was not labelled, please share your story.
The survey closes on October 24. Take the survey now and please share.
Call for participants: quality of life study
Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine, Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai, and the University of Toronto are studying quality of life issues for families managing peanut allergies. As such, they have a voluntary survey aimed at parents/guardians of children with a peanut allergy attending daycare through grade 12. The survey will take less than 15 minutes to complete. No identifying information is included in the responses and all data collected is anonymous.
Your feedback is invaluable in order for researchers to understand the role of food allergy in a child’s quality of life.
Global research initiative
Researchers from Ontario’s McMaster University, in collaboration with Food Allergy Canada and other patient groups and stakeholders from more than 20 countries, are currently engaged in a major research study, Global review of epinephrine availability and anaphylaxis management practices amongst patient organization countries.
In this exciting project, people at risk of anaphylaxis have been asked to participate in a survey in order to help improve the understanding of the availability and accessibility of epinephrine auto-injectors worldwide and use of stock epinephrine; anaphylaxis emergency plans will also be reviewed. Data from this study will help engage many important stakeholders – from healthcare, government, industry, and the public – in a dialogue that addresses potential long-term solutions.
We are proud to be a lead on this project and we will keep you informed in the coming months as the study progresses! Thanks to those of you who completed the survey.
Update on our consultations with the Canadian Transportation Agency
As you may know, the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) recently released a report from a Ministerial Inquiry that reviewed current practices for managing food allergies for peanuts, tree nuts and sesame seeds on Canadian airlines. The inquiry was mandated by the Minister of Transportation, following the CTA’s rulings on specific allergy-related cases that focused on those three specific allergens.
We were one of several key stakeholders who were asked to provide input during the inquiry. Many of our recommendations were integrated into the final report, however, there were a few key areas we felt required further consideration by the CTA. We met with the CTA in September to discuss these concerns further.
In our discussions, we were informed that the report is final and no further changes could be made at this time. However, we also learned that the CTA was undertaking a public consultation on accessible transportation to garner feedback from Canadians on how to help make federal transportation more accessible to people with disabilities. This consultation would allow us and all Canadians, to provide recommendations for airline travel, as well as other modes of transportation under the CTA’s jurisdiction.
We saw this as an opportunity to provide our input, as well as engage you and others within the community to provide input directly to the CTA before the deadline of September 30th. Our recommendations have been submitted to the CTA and to date over 150 individuals/organizations also provided their response to the CTA regarding food allergies. Thank you to those that submitted a response for helping to make our collective voice heard with the CTA!
To view our full response to the CTA for the Accessible Transportation Consultation as it pertains to food allergies, please click here.
As a quick summary, our recommendations to the CTA are as follows:
All Modes of Transit
We support the CTA’s consideration of regulations that would:
- Apply to all modes of transportation under the CTA’s jurisdiction;
- Be structured to recognize that carriers and terminals are expected to provide many of the same services to a person with disabilities;
- Contain provisions to reflect the services that are mode-specific;
- Create consistent and reliable levels of accessibility within the federal transportation network; and
- Ensure compliance of service providers in meeting accessibility standards.
We have recommended that common standards could apply to all modes of transportation, such as:
- Staff training on food allergies, including the identification of signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction and how to respond in an emergency;
- Having “stock” epinephrine available, an auto-injector (e.g. EpiPen®) that is not prescribed to an individual, that can be used to treat someone experiencing a severe allergic reaction;
- Strategies to minimize exposure to common food allergens;
- Development of documented allergy policies and procedures; and
- Clear and easily accessible information on allergy policies for passengers developed by each sector (e.g., on websites).
We also recommended that a sub-committee of stakeholders be created as the regulations are developed, including patient advocacy organizations such as ourselves.
In its Ministerial Report, the CTA rejected two important measures proposed by Food Allergy Canada and the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (CSACI), which we recommend be reconsidered as part of the consultation process:
- Stock epinephrine: carry stock epinephrine on airlines in the event of an emergency (some international airlines already do this); and
- Staff training: in-flight staff should be trained on how to respond and treat an individual experiencing anaphylaxis.
These two measures were also supported by the CTA’s own medical advisor.
In addition, we also proposed an overall review of the CTA’s initial findings from their Ministerial Report and our recommendations, including:
- CTA’s finding: Create a buffer zone consisting of the row the allergic passenger is in and not serving meals or snacks containing peanuts, nuts or sesame seeds in the buffer zone.
- Our recommendation: Retain buffer zones requirements currently in place with Canadian airline providers, until additional research is conducted to advise on the effectiveness of buffer zones.
- CTA’s finding: Advise other passengers within the buffer zone that they must refrain from eating peanuts, nuts or sesame seeds or foods containing them.
- Our recommendation: Make a cabin-wide announcement informing other passengers that there is someone on board with peanut, nut or sesame allergies. Passengers may be asked to refrain from consuming these products during the flight.
Communication with passengers with food allergies
- CTA’s finding: Advise passengers who provide advanced notification of their allergies about safety measures they can take, such as carrying their auto-injector and bringing their own food.
- Our recommendation: Upon booking and again at check-in, inform the passenger of the airline’s allergy policy, including a reminder for the person to carry their auto-injector onboard and bring their own food for the flight.
- CTA’s finding: Allow passengers to pre-board to wipe down their seating areas.
- Our recommendation: Have specific protocols for airline staff in place for cleaning areas where a person with allergies is to be seated and provide passengers with the option of pre-boarding to clean the area themselves.
- CTA’s finding: Have allergy policies on air carrier websites.
- Our recommendation: Have written policies in place for accommodating passengers with food allergies, which are easily accessed on air carrier websites.
Quality of life considerations
- The CTA report did not specifically address the significant impact food allergies have on a passenger’s quality of life.
- Our recommendation: When considering appropriate accommodations, it is important to take into account the psychological and social impact food allergies can play in the daily lives of those affected and their families.
We hope to continue collaborating with the CTA and other stakeholders on this important initiative to create universal guidelines for travel.
Our goal, as always, is to work toward establishing appropriate accommodations for the 2.5 million Canadians with food allergies as they travel. We will continue to advocate on their behalf and will keep you posted as the CTA consultation continues.
Food allergies and restaurants: it is a public health issue
By: Laurie Harada, Executive Director of Food Allergy Canada and Carla Da Silva, a Quebec-based consultant for Food Allergy Canada. Both are mothers of sons with multiple food allergies.
This past summer, police in Sherbrooke, Quebec arrested a waiter at a restaurant prompted by a customer’s severe allergic reaction. It has triggered a spirited public discussion into where responsibility lies in protecting Canadians with food allergies.
For individuals with food allergies and their families, stories like this hit home. Having children with multiple food allergies, we know the anxiety that can accompany the simple act of eating. One mistake, one miscommunication, or one unguarded moment can be the difference between enjoying a meal and enduring a life-threatening reaction, a heart-wrenching event for anyone to witness.
We have long advanced the idea that the safe management of food allergies is a shared responsibility.
Individuals – for their own protection – must strive to take ownership of their allergies. This means following important strategies to minimize the risk of an allergic reaction, including when dining out. Among these preventative strategies are communicating your allergies to restaurant staff, ensuring friends and dining companions know about your allergies, always carrying your epinephrine auto-injector – an EpiPen® – and knowing when and how to use it.
Yet less than perfect adherence to this advice does not lessen the community’s role, including that of restaurants to know what is in the food served to its customers.
The reality is many, many of the 2.5 million Canadians with food allergies have and will continue to dine safely and enjoyably in restaurants across the country. Numerous restaurants, from big chains to small establishments, make great efforts to be allergy-aware.
Still, if we are to reduce the risk of incidents like the one that occurred in Sherbrooke – and these incidents do occur although they are not always reported on – it is time we begin treating food allergies in restaurants as a public health issue. We take for granted many measures that help ensure consumer safety in restaurants. Processes that support reducing the risk of allergic reactions is a natural evolution.
To achieve this, education and training on food allergies and the implementation of clear processes and procedures should be required and universally applied throughout the foodservice industry.
This idea is not a novel concept. In fact, these strategies – education and training – have been used effectively in other domains as part of public policy measures that have fostered understanding and saved lives. Think of the requirements for schools to have measures in place, such as staff training, to protect students at risk of anaphylaxis, and federal food labelling rules which require clear ingredient lists and allergen warnings.
We have an opportunity to transform what was a negative – and could have been tragic – event, into a positive outcome which brings together Canadians with food allergies and the foodservice industry in a spirit of understanding and cooperation for the public good. Let’s seize the moment.Tags: air travel, Canadian Transportation Agency, Health Canada, natural health products, Research