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“May Contain” Becoming an International Precautionary Standard

By Jaan Koel 

In 2012, Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) recommended the use of “May Contain” as the preferred precautionary allergen labelling statement for pre-packaged foods.  The food industry had previously been using a variety of statements to alert allergic consumers that unintentional allergens could be present in these products.  

And the phrase is now on its way to international adoption.

During a public consultation process in Canada in 2010, allergic consumers had noted that multiple statements created confusion and made assessing risk levels difficult. The consensus was that using the single “May Contain” precautionary statement was preferable, and although the CFIA recommendation was considered a positive step, producers are not required to use precautionary statements.

The same approach is being taken in other countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Switzerland and areas of the European Union (EU).

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