House of Commons Hansard #145 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was libya.


Private Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON


That, in the opinion of the House, anaphylaxis is a serious concern for an increasing number of Canadians and the government should take the appropriate measures necessary to ensure these Canadians are able to maintain a high quality of life.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank a number of individuals who have been behind the scenes working hard on this: Cindy Paskey, Chris George and Debbie Bruce from my area of the country. I know this is an initiative that has been worked on across the country but I want thank the people from NASK, which is in the Niagara region, for being such huge proponents behind the scenes and working so hard and tirelessly on behalf of this issue. It is an important issue and they have done a great job.

It is a great honour to begin debate on my motion on anaphylaxis, which reads:

That, in the opinion of the House, anaphylaxis is a serious concern for an increasing number of Canadians and the government should take the appropriate measures necessary to ensure these Canadians are able to maintain a high quality of life.

I must admit that I have been overwhelmed by the public reaction to this motion since it was added to the order paper back in June 2010. I have received an enormous amount of emails and phone calls and have had many people come up to me and thank me for bringing this very important issue forward for debate.

I have also been very encouraged by the support I have received from my hon. colleagues from across party lines who have voiced their support for this motion. I thank all parliamentarians who have spoken or written to me and all of those who took the time out of their busy schedules to attend the information luncheon I hosted back in December of last year.

I would especially like to thank the hon. member from St. Catharines who first introduced a motion on anaphylaxis back in the 39th Parliament, which ended before he had the opportunity to bring it forward for debate. He and his staff have been most helpful throughout this process.

Anaphylaxis describes the most severe form of allergic reaction. An anaphylactic episode is rapid in onset and, without immediate medical treatment, can sometimes lead to death. While the most common cause of these reactions is the ingestion of or contact with certain foods, they can also be caused by insect stings, medicine or even something as simple as contact with latex.

An estimated 1.3 million Canadians suffer or are affected with this condition, and that number continues to rise. Most of us know someone whose life has been affected by anaphylaxis. It is for these people that this motion is being brought forward.

It is for Carmen, whose daughter, Caitlin, has already been diagnosed with anaphylaxis and who has now been told that another daughter, Caroline, must wait eight months before being tested after having a horrifying episode while the family was dining out at a restaurant.

It is for Susan and her five-year-old son, Lucas, who she describes as her most loyal friend. Susan actually worries more about the milk allergy that afflicts Lucas than she does his potentially fatal congenital heart defect that he also has been diagnosed with.

It is also for Chris and his family who take their vacations by car rather than a plane so as to feel safer about avoiding a food allergy reaction that could prove deadly for seven-year-old David.

How can bringing forward such a motion and passing this motion help these and other families living with anaphylaxis? Perhaps my greatest goal with this motion is to increase awareness. Education tends to lead to more consideration from those who do not suffer toward those who do. I think about how it is now becoming common to be asked whether one has food allergies when being invited to weddings and other public events,and even smaller dinner parties with new friends. This would have seemed very strange 10 or 20 years ago, but as food allergy organizations have increasingly educated the public, we are seeing this type of consideration become more commonplace.

As the general public learns more about the grave dangers facing anaphylaxis sufferers, they can take and are taking more precautions in their daily lives, reducing that burden that, until recently, tended to lie solely with the affected person and their families.

Thoughtful Canadians are now asking about allergies before cooking meals for dinner guests. They are now packing lunches for their children that avoid some of the most common allergens. They are using more discretion in the snacks they choose to eat in public places where they might be sitting too close to someone with severe food allergies. This is very important in places like sports stadiums and classrooms but even more so on a plane or train where medical assistance may not be readily available should an anaphylactic attack occur. This type of consideration by non-allergy sufferers is becoming more commonplace and it is hoped that through greater awareness this level of thoughtfulness will only continue to increase.

To understand why this awareness and consideration is so highly sought by the anaphylaxis community, one must consider the fears that a parent of an affected child has on a daily basis. Let us imagine a father or mother who has seen first-hand their child having a life-threatening attack where, within minutes, their face and neck have swollen to become almost unrecognizable and the child struggles just to breathe.

Let us imagine that each day when the child goes to school the parent is left worrying whether that child will unknowingly come into contact with the trigger that could cause a similar reaction. It could be something as simple and innocent as another child sharing a snack that could cause a life or death situation. These very real and terrifying fears of a parent can never go away, but collective steps can be taken to help ease them considerably.

I have spoken with constituents who have a great deal more comfort because their child is in a school that has made it a priority to provide as safe an environment as possible. Food programs have been altered and alternative solutions found, making it less likely that children with food allergies will encounter their forbidden substance. While not all schools have been so accommodating, I believe that as awareness increases so too will the level of consideration and mutual level of respect that leads to the discovery of solutions agreeable to everyone.

Of course, such an outcome is more important at the schools level because 80% of children with anaphylaxis do not outgrow their condition. It is hoped that it might eventually become more commonplace to see this dialogue and mutual respect, leading to protective measures throughout Canadian society.

While raising awareness is a key motive for bringing forward this motion, it is also hoped that the passage of it will encourage further federal government action with measures designed to increase protection for those Canadians living with anaphylaxis.

However, before talking about what can be done, it is important to underline what has been done. With the announcement of the 2007 food and consumer safety action plan, our government signalled an ongoing commitment to develop policies and standards in support of these issues. I am very proud to be part of a government where these words have been followed up with action. Last month I had the pleasure to participate in a very important announcement concerning new food labelling regulations.

Our health minister announced new requirements for manufacturers to clearly declare all food allergens as well as gluten sources and sulphites by name in the products that they sell. This can either be in the list of ingredients or at the end of the list of ingredients using the word “contains”.

The regulations will also require that food allergens, gluten sources and sulphites that are sub-ingredients of food be declared on the product label. For example, if a bag of potato chips uses casein in its seasonings, milk will be required to be declared in the list of ingredients. The mention of milk can appear in brackets after the seasoning declaration in the list of ingredients or in the “contains” statement. Once these new regulations are fully implemented by August 2012, consumers with food allergies will benefit greatly by being able to more easily avoid foods that contain their specific and potentially deadly allergens.

However, more can be done, and going forward there are five key areas where stakeholders have asked the federal government to consider further action: One, initiating awareness campaigns; two, greater federal coordination on anaphylaxis matters; three, a long-term commitment to research; four, improved transportation safeguards; and five, improved allergen labelling.

I have already talked about why awareness is so important to the cause and certainly a nationally coordinated information campaign will go a long way toward educating Canadians. However, this recommendation is also important as there needs to be greater levels of knowledge and understanding among health care providers.

Health Canada can and should play a key role in providing accurate and targeted information to groups such as medical professionals, first aid and emergency training providers, child care workers, food service providers and to those who work in the hospitality industry. Consideration should also be given to establishing awareness initiatives for publicly regulated workplaces and public transportation vehicles, as well as public facilities.

Greater federal coordination is not only important in an awareness campaign but also to the programs and services that deal with distribution of information regarding anaphylaxis and food allergy information. To this end, Health Canada could consider creating a primary contact in order to coordinate federal departments and agencies in the combined response to the growing instances and risks associated with anaphylaxis. This contact would also develop communications channels across federal, provincial, territorial and municipal borders in order to coordinate intergovernmental health information.

It is important that all levels of government work together on this issue. I have been encouraged by municipal governments in my riding that have passed motions endorsing Motion No. 546. One of the benefits of working in coordination is that there are sometimes great ideas in one jurisdiction that could be considered by other jurisdictions, sooner rather than later. A prime example of this would be a private member's bill known as Sabrina's law that was enacted in Ontario and has received widespread praise for the positive effect it has had in the protection of students.

What Sabrina's law does in the province is threefold: first, it provides strategies to reduce exposure to allergens; second, it provides procedures to communicate to parents, students and employees about life-threatening allergies; and three, it provides regular training to deal with life-threatening allergies for teachers and staff. What happened to Sabrina was quite sad but the legacy of the bill has been good for the whole community.

Another important step that the federal government could take is a commitment to research. We, unfortunately, do not yet understand why the disease is becoming so prevalent, how to stop this upward trend or how to prevent food allergies from developing. It is incredibly important that we mobilize Canadian researchers to find ways to prevent this trend. A long-term financial and program commitment is necessary within Canada, and standardized and evidence-based guidelines for diagnosis, management and treatment of food allergy and anaphylaxis need to be developed.

The federal government can also lead the way by implementing new allergy safeguards for people making use of public transit that will reduce the risk of unnecessary and potentially fatal anaphylaxis attacks. The establishment of a transport policy that implements risk reduction for anaphylaxis passengers should be explored. Air travel especially should require airlines to consult with the anaphylaxis community to develop policies to effectively reduce some of the risks.

Small steps have been taken in this regard but I agree with anaphylaxis organizations that have said that more can be done.

While the airlines, quite rightly, do not want to infringe unnecessarily on the freedoms of other passengers, the safeguards that could be enacted are relatively minor and could be life-saving. Working together with both the airlines and other stakeholders means that the federal government could play a key role in negotiating policies that are both mutually acceptable and that greatly reduce the risk of severe reactions occurring during flights.

I will now talk about what could be done in the area of allergen labelling. As I mentioned earlier, I am very proud of the steps that our government has taken in this regard but there are some considerations as to what priorities might be going forward when it comes to labelling.

The first is that currently there are no regulations surrounding the use of precautionary allergen statements such as “may contain...”, or “processed in a facility that processes....” The danger of the lack of formal rules in this area is that people may have seen those warnings on so many labels that they may incorrectly assume that because they do not see it that the product is necessarily safe. That actually might not be the case but rather that the producer of the packaging has simply chosen not to include such a warning.

Another positive move to consider in this regard would be to consider the development of an allergy aware symbol that indicates that an item has been reviewed for the 10 major allergens.

Effective steps can be taken to make the lives of anaphylaxis sufferers safer and provide a degree of relief to them and their families. Our government and members from all sides of the House have started down the right road in this important cause. It was encouraging to witness this Chamber pass a unanimous motion to designate May as Food Allergy Awareness Month in Canada. This means so much to so many families coping with anaphylaxis.

I am, therefore, heartened by the response so far to Motion No. 546. I look forward to working together with all parliamentarians to see it passed and then acted upon in an effort to continue to improve the lives of anaphylaxis sufferers and their families.

Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I understand that the regulations are being put into place but I am concerned about the size requirements on the warnings. Many of us my age and older, and maybe some even younger, have difficulty reading the current labels on different products. We practically need magnifying glasses to read them. I just wonder whether any size requirements will be provided.

There is an 18 month phase-in period for these regulations. I wonder why it has taken so long to do that and where we are in the process of phasing in the regulations.

Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that the government wanted to do was to get some consistency in labelling.

The starting process is getting the manufacturers and those that are putting things into foods to put it on the labels, so that when people start to look, they will know where to go and where to look for it.

In terms of the thought process and phasing-in, I think there was a compromise struck. I know that the challenge of phasing-in any new regulations is the effect it has on packaging and costs. It is fair to say that the 18-month phase-in period would give those who manufacture and produce these labels a chance to work out the existing packaging they have and phase-in the new packaging at a minimal cost and disruption to those organizations.

Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Ujjal Dosanjh Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I commend the member for his statement.

The recent labelling regulations announcement exempted brewers from the need for labelling. Can the member, as a member of the government caucus, explain the rationale and motivation behind that?

I know groups such as Anaphylaxis Canada are disappointed with that. Perhaps the member could tell us something.

Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, most people who are affected are children. I do not think most parents are concerned at this stage that it is not on the beer labels.

However, we continue to work with and engage all interested stakeholders. We believe this is important. As we continue to move forward, we did not want this to be the holdup. It has taken some time to get this done. We wanted to move forward with concrete steps because we believe this is so important for our children.

Let us get this dealt with. As we move forward, we will have an opportunity to continue consulting to get that taken care of.

Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

St. Catharines


Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for Niagara West—Glanbrook. He has done an incredible amount of work on this issue and moved it forward.

I am hoping he will receive the unanimous support of the House on this. It really is a motion that speaks to an issue that has perhaps been if not ignored at least not put in the forefront as he has done this morning.

I know there has been a lot of work from the local Niagara community, assisting him and us in terms of moving this forward. Could the member just comment on the importance of the support from a local perspective that certainly has the influence and outcome of meeting a national issue that has a national need and that has the support from a local community?

Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I did want to highlight that even though there has been an amazing amount of work done at the local level, this is an initiative that goes from coast to coast.

One of the things I wanted to touch on before I go back to the great local support is that Canadian Anaphylaxis Initiative is an advocacy group that has moved forward all families to talk to all members from all parties. This is an initiative that has been moving forward from coast to coast, from B.C. all the way to the east coast.

It is always great having a local initiative talking to the importance of an issue. As members of Parliament, one of the things we find important when a new issue comes up is that we want to understand and be encouraged by the fact that local people are concerned with the issue.

It is with that in mind that I think NASK has done a great job informing not only the members here in Niagara but their counterparts across the country. Canadian Anaphylaxis Initiative has worked just as hard on this issue to coordinate efforts amongst all parties and all members to educate us, so that we could move forward with this initiative.

Private Members' Business

March 21st, 2011 / 11:25 a.m.


Ujjal Dosanjh Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I commend the member for Niagara West—Glanbrook for a very comprehensive statement on this issue. I rise in support of the motion that he has put forward and to raise some concerns about the exemption that the government has allowed in the regulations.

Obviously, the motion is self-explanatory. It talks about anaphylaxis as being a serious concern for an increasing number of Canadians and that the government should take the appropriate measures necessary to ensure that Canadians are able to maintain a high quality of life. I am assuming all members of the House would support that. I certainly stand in support of the motion.

There are approximately 1% to 2% of Canadians who live with the risk of an anaphylactic reaction. More than 50% of Canadians know someone with a life-threatening allergy. That is why, in principle, this is a very important motion and has my support. However, I want to voice some concerns with regard to the exemption the government has given to the brewery industry.

The government had promised to bring in new regulations with regard to food labelling in July 2008. Almost a year and a half later, in February of this year, the government announced that one sector if industry would be exempt from the new labelling regulations, which is the brewery industry.

As I said earlier in my question, groups such as Anaphylaxis Canada have raised concerns about the exemption of the brewery industry and I have a statement from Anaphylaxis Canada. I want to read two sentences from its press release of February 14 for the record. It commended the government, of course, and then stated:

After two decades of tireless advocacy by thousands of Canadians, our organization is very pleased to see the passage of important new regulations that will make food ingredient labels easier to understand. However, we are very disappointed by the federal government's decision to alter the regulations as proposed and provide a special exemption to the brewery industry.

I want to put that on the record because I believe the government should be moving faster to deal with that exemption, eliminate it if at all possible, and to do all of the other things that the member talked about in his statement. I do not believe I need to waste the House's time by saying anything more than that.

I rise in support of this motion. My friend made a very comprehensive statement, and I believe the House and all members must pay attention to it. It is a very serious condition, like many other conditions. The member has done an excellent job of putting it forward and I would encourage him to urge the Prime Minister to end the exemption of the brewery industry at the earliest possible time as Anaphylaxis Canada has requested.

Private Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak about anaphylaxis, a condition that must be taken very seriously. Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction. More and more Quebeckers and Canadians suffer from food allergies and approximately 4% of the population has one or more food allergies.

Motion M-546 aims to promote public awareness and to establish product standards to make life easier for people living with allergies. As I said, these allergies can sometimes be life-threatening. Living with an allergy-related health problem affects individuals and alters their quality of life. They live every day with worry. It is a daily battle. The allergies also affect family members, friends and other people in their lives.

I can share my own experience, since I have allergies to two medications: codeine and cortisone. These medications are found in many over-the-counter products. Every day when I take medication, I must be very careful to keep myself safe, since many other medications or products are made with codeine and cortisone derivatives.

My personal experience has shown me that it is not always easy to determine and identify which products contain these derivatives. As the hon. member said, it is important to remember that many children suffer from these allergies. It is also important to remember that they will have to deal with this issue their entire lives, even as adults, because these allergies do not go away and will always be part of their reality.

The Bloc Québécois and Quebec understand the importance of acknowledging food allergies. And so, on May 14, 2010, the Bloc Québécois voted in favour of a motion designating May as Food Allergy Awareness Month. The majority of people who suffer from allergies, suffer from food allergies. They must always be on the lookout, whether they are going to a restaurant or someone's house. It is a constant challenge for people suffering from food allergies because they must always be conscious of what they are eating. Allergies can appear in infancy or can develop at any point in a person's life. The most common allergies are to peanuts, eggs and milk—all basic food products.

Over 10 years ago, Quebec declared March 21 food allergy awareness day. Today is March 21. The purpose of this day is to increase awareness about the problems and issues associated with food allergies. It is important to educate the public and increase awareness about this affliction. Prevention is also a major issue and very important to any success that is achieved, since it helps increase the quality of life of those who suffer from these allergies.

We support today's motion, for the most part. As always, the Bloc Québécois studied the motion very carefully, and we concluded that it respects the values upheld by our party, the values of Quebeckers, and that it calls for compassion in particular. We therefore believe that the government should take the necessary steps to ensure that Canadians and Quebeckers who have these allergies can maintain a high quality of life.

However, these measures must be taken only in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction. Quebec and the provinces have exclusive jurisdiction over health and social services. The Conservatives won adoption of a motion recognizing the Quebec nation. Therefore, they must also respect the fact that certain matters fall solely under Quebec's jurisdiction.

In order to allow Quebec to fulfill its responsibilities regarding health and social services, the government must settle the $5 billion dispute it has been having with the Quebec government, for instance, by resolving the equalization issue once and for all.

In its 2007 budget, the Conservative government allocated money for equalization. The Bloc Québécois supported that budget at the time because it resolved, in part, the equalization issue. Nonetheless, it has not been resolved entirely. Quebec still has not been paid what it is owed.

Quebec is still waiting for compensation for harmonizing the GST and the QST, despite the fact that it is a nation and it harmonized its taxes a number of years ago, as a number of Canadian provinces have done. I think we were the first province to do so and we are still waiting for compensation. The Conservative government, including the Prime Minister, initially used Quebec as an example of harmonizing taxes. The government must compensate Quebec the way it has compensated the other provinces and adequately fund social programs.

The federal government can get industry to change its rules on labelling food allergens, as it did recently for gluten and sulphites.

When I was elected I sat on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food with the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska, who does excellent work for our party in that area. We were studying food labelling. The government asked us to do our homework and set labelling standards for products entering Canada. Despite a consensus in committee, the government introduced an entirely different bill.

If we adopt a motion as important as the one being moved today, I invite the government to respect the will of the House and not repeat what it did with the labelling issue. It disregarded the report that had been presented in committee and it implemented unsatisfactory standards for all Canadians and Quebeckers. The government should work with the opposition and respect the will of the House when it comes to labelling.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, allow me to propose the following amendment, seconded by the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska:

That the motion be amended by adding after the words “the government” the following: “with respect to subjects under the legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada”.

I invite hon. members to support the Bloc Québécois amendment to the motion moved by the hon. member for Niagara West—Glanbrook.

Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I must inform the hon. members that, pursuant to Standing Order 93(3), an amendment to a private member's motion or to the motion for the second reading of a private member's bill may only be moved with the consent of the sponsor of the item.

Therefore, I ask the hon. member for Niagara West—Glanbrook if he consents to this amendment being moved.

Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON


Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, this is an exciting day with motions and amendments. There is a lot going on here. People are working together. I am so pleased to work with the member for Niagara West—Glanbrook and to speak to and support Motion No. 546 asking that the House find that anaphylaxis is a serious concern for an increasing number of Canadians and that the government should take appropriate measures to ensure that these Canadians are able to maintain a high quality of life.

I applaud the member for this motion, but I also very much applaud him for his speech. So often we come to the House of Commons and hear feel good motions that look great on paper and do not really do anything or take any action. However, I was very impressed by his speech laying out real actions the government could take to fully realize the intention of this motion and to make the lives of Canadians better. It is an honourable motion and, without a doubt, has been received very well by the anaphylaxis community. I have met with members of this community and they are definitely in support of this motion.

As we have heard, anaphylaxis is a serious and sometimes life threatening allergic reaction. It can affect respiration as well as gastrointestinal and cardiovascular functioning. It is caused most commonly by food, although, as we have heard, there are a number of other triggers like insect stings or medicine, latex, or exercise. The most common food allergens are peanuts, tree nuts, seafood, egg, and milk products.

One may think that it would be easy to ascertain if a food contained nuts or a milk product by just reading the labels. However, labelling is not that simple. We have been pushing hard for changes to labelling and we have seen some changes recently, which have been a wonderful first step.

I was talking to a mom recently who has a child with an anaphylactic condition. She said that when she goes to the grocery store, she has a long legal size sheet of paper with all the possible wordings and names for all possible ingredients that could be in the foods, because the labels are not clear. We need really simple and clear labelling for people with anaphylactic conditions, and for everybody really. We need to know what is in our food.

According to Anaphylaxis Canada, approximately 1% to 2% of Canadians, or about 510,000 people, live with the risk of an anaphylactic reaction and more than 50% of Canadians know someone with a life-threatening allergy. I think everybody in this House knows someone like this, because the former member for Halifax, Alexa McDonough, had an anaphylactic condition, something that she always has to be careful of when she is out visiting with constituents and at dinners and community events, because it is a life-threatening allergy. It is clearly something that is of national concern.

It is worth noting that while anaphylaxis is usually diagnosed during childhood, it can also be something that develops later in life. There are so many challenges to living with anaphylaxis. Avoiding the allergen that causes a reaction is paramount, and people need to be constantly prepared for unexpected reactions.

What can we do? We did hear the member point out a list of things that we could do at the federal level to help people with anaphylactic conditions. I would like to add to that list because there are other ways that we can bring attention to this issue and make sure that Canadians are safe. First and foremost, I would say that we need better education and awareness for all Canadians whether they have an anaphylactic condition or not, including the parents of children living with anaphylaxis. We need better primary care and community care. I bring this up, knowing that 2014 is just around the corner, the year when we have to renegotiate the accord under the Canada Health Act. If we are to make sure that kids and adults with anaphylactic conditions can receive the immediate treatment they need, it is essential that we have good community and primary care across the country. With 2014 approaching, we really do need pan-Canadian consultations about the future of medicare in our country.

We need to consider food security and ensure that Canadians have access to nutritious, adequate, safe and appropriate food. Sometimes that means culturally appropriate food, and sometimes for people with anaphylactic conditions, “appropriate” means that they know what is in a food and whether or not allergens are in the food.

Of course, we need good inspection of food. We need label literacy for food and medication labels. We also need improved numeric skills to help people better understand food labels and dietary choices. This is not something that we automatically think of as an issue for new Canadians, but when we are doing settlement services, we need to ensure that there are those numeric and label skills and English literacy so that new Canadians can understand what labels are saying.

Finally, we need pharmacare. We absolutely need an affordable drug strategy. This is something that would help people with anaphylactic conditions, as well as Canadians around the country.

Without question, I think that over the last five years the Conservative government has not shown a lot of leadership on the health file. Some of the areas where we have not seen leadership relate directly to improving the lives of those living with anaphylaxis. Areas such as food inspection, particularly of imported foods, have not been sufficiently addressed. We heard about the total inaccuracy of the labelling of imported foods and the inadequacy of enforcement measures.

I have talked about poverty reduction, food security, primary care. These are all things that we need to look at and invest in.

Those with anaphylaxis, like all food-conscious consumers, rely on accurate labelling to make safe food choices. However, we know that reliance on labels can come with consequences when companies are not labelling properly.

Last year, it was reported that 6 out of 10 candies, baked goods and breads at the grocery store had labels that made inaccurate statements with respect to being sugar-free, low in fat, or 100% whole wheat. How can we rely on labels when we know that 6 out of 10 are inaccurate?

We have learned that the CFIA did target companies responsible for these labelling inaccuracies between 2006 and 2010 and suspected compliance issues, but it actually did not release the names of these companies for four years.

On top of publicly shaming the companies, which was a very good step, the CFIA could have removed products from store shelves or prosecuted a company, something that has not been made a priority, which has left customers and consumers without much protection from misleading information.

There has been change in this file in recent weeks. The federal government has begun to name food manufacturers that run into serious troubles with CFIA inspectors. This is a positive thing. The increase in labelling accountability is heartening, but we do wonder why there has been so much delay. We do absolutely welcome this kind of clarity in food labelling and the CFIA going after labellers to make sure labels are correct.

However, the government has done no favours to those with anaphylaxis and celiac disease because it has provided exemptions for brewers, something that one of my colleagues raised earlier. Breweries do not actually have to list the presence of glutens and glucosides in their products, nor the addition of other non-traditional ingredients in their specialized beers. That is something that consumers should have the right to know about.

We might think that beer is beer, that we can figure out that it probably has wheat in it or probably has something in it that we are allergic to. However, back home we have Garrison Brewing, and one of its ales is called Nut Brown Ale. It does not have nuts in it. However, we have seen beers from other microbreweries, in particular, that actually do have nuts or traces of nuts in them. For example, there is Chocolate Stout, where the chocolate may actually have been in contact with nuts. Therefore, we cannot say, “Well, it's called Chocolate Stout, and so there might be nuts in it”. What about the Nut Brown Ale? It does not have nuts in it.

Therefore, we just need clear labelling. We cannot rely on companies to put whatever they want on their labels and to call their products whatever they want.

I actually saw an interesting beer called something like Crustacean Crusty Ale or some such nonsense. It does not have shrimp in it. Don't worry, it has been tested and there is no shrimp in it.

I raised pharmacare, which is incredibly important. We need universal pharmacare. Too many times we hear of people going up to the counter at the pharmacy and seeing the cost of their prescription and just walking away, leaving it on the counter. This is something that is important to people across the country, whether they have anaphylactic conditions or not.

On that note, I am proud to support this motion. I am also proud to support the points that were raised in the speech that will help us actually fully realize better and safer conditions for people with anaphylactic conditions.

Private Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

St. Catharines


Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak about an important issue for Canadians.

Food allergies affect approximately 1.2 million Canadians. Most of those currently affected are children. Sensitivity to sulphites affects approximately 200,000 Canadians, the majority of whom have asthma. Taken together, these conditions affect the health of approximately 1.4 million Canadians. For these people, it is crucial that they or their caregivers have the information they need to make the right choices about the food they eat. The consequences of eating the wrong food could mean potential life-threatening reactions, such as anaphylaxis. That is why I support Motion No. 546.

The member for Niagara West—Glanbrook who moved the motion accepted the amendment this morning, which shows his commitment to get the motion through Parliament, supported unanimously by all four parties in the House of Commons. It speaks volumes to the work he has done on the issue and the importance it has to Canadians and members in the House.

The motion calls on the government to address anaphylaxis as a serious concern for an increasing number of Canadians and to take the measures necessary to ensure that Canadians are protected and able to maintain a high quality of life. Right now, the only way that Canadians suffering from food allergies can protect themselves is to avoid the ingredients they know will make them ill. This continues to be an important challenge. That is why our government has placed a high priority on helping allergenic Canadians make informed food choices to avoid life-threatening anaphylaxis.

We rely on food labels to provide us with information about what we eat or should not eat. Strengthening ingredient labels on food, we have introduced new measures that require the use of clear language on food labels and the declaration of otherwise hidden allergens. The new measures, which were announced in February in Ottawa by the Minister of Health, ensure that labels of most prepackaged foods declare any food allergen, gluten source or sulphite in the list of food ingredients. They will also require that labels use plain and simple language that Canadians with food allergies, their families and caregivers will be able to understand.

These measures will also create more predictability for food processors and reduce the number of food recalls. Most important, they will help reduce life-threatening reactions, such as anaphylaxis, that may result from the consumption of the undeclared ingredients in packaged food.

The amended regulations will come into force 18 months from now and all prepackaged foods offered for sale from that time forward must comply. In the meantime, and a couple of members have mentioned this, we are certainly encouraging the industry to start making changes to improve food labels as quickly as possible. To the industry's credit, a number of companies have begun that process as we speak and will be completed much in advance of the 18-month timeframe.

It is anticipated that the enhanced labelling requirements will result in improved quality of life for individuals and families and reduce costs to the health care system. In addition to changes in how we label food allergens, work has been undertaken to evaluate the health risks posed by certain foods and to support the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's compliance activities by providing experts to conduct human health risk assessments of undeclared allergens. We are also new allergen-detection methods and generating various educational materials on allergens.

Health Canada maintains a world-leading food allergen method development program to address the lack of methodologies for the detection of low-level and undeclared allergens that are present in foods. This further supports the compliance and enforcement activities of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Anaphylaxis prevention is about raising awareness. To do this properly, there needs to be a better understanding of what anaphylaxis is, who it affects, how it affects them and how the impact of these reactions can be lessened. By acknowledging the seriousness of this issue, we are supporting the work of the Government of Canada and, more important, its partners. We have made and continue to make advancements in our understanding of the relevance and prevalence of severe food allergies and the attitudes and behaviours of those living with severe allergies.

A full picture of the health, social and economic burden of illness that food allergies represent in Canada is essential in being able to determine their scope and impact on Canadians.

In terms of anaphylaxis specifically, it is important that we are able to advance our knowledge of these types of reactions. If we can characterize these reactions, identify what triggers them and follow up with patients after they have suffered from such a reaction, we can begin the development of improved diagnostic approaches and therapeutic strategies that will contribute to reducing the incidents along with the morbidity and mortality of anaphylaxis.

Again, by supporting the motion, the Government of Canada and the House will reaffirm its commitment to this important area of work and demonstrate how we can work within the health portfolio and among our stakeholders in advancing our knowledge and understanding of key health issues.

Adoption of the motion will also provide an opportunity for the government and all in this place to reiterate that allergies are a serious public health issue that continues to challenge the health care sector, the food industry and the Canadian public.

I would like to take a couple of minutes to congratulate the Minister of Health who has worked on this issue and has ensured that this has not been left in the background, while other issues have come to the fore.

We attended an announcement at an Ottawa grocery store in early February on the whole aspect of food labelling, how it was going to work and the process that was going to be undertaken was announced. A retired individual who used to work in the ministry of health in Ottawa also attended.

The first thing she did at the conclusion of the announcement was speak to the member for Niagara West—Glanbrook. She thanked him and the minister for the efforts they had put forward in this regard. She also thanked the government for taking action on food labelling. She worked on this issue for the past 18 years, not only when she was with the ministry of health, but also after she had retired. Hearing her speak to the issue showed how time had gone by, but her efforts were not in vain.

Over the next 18 months, with this motion, the passing of the food labelling regulations and the advancement the industry has made in regard to food labelling, we will be on the right track.

If we look at the five issues brought forward by our partners and fellow Canadians who are concerned about this issue, the federal coordination of programs and services which, as we see the motion today, is the beginning.

With respect to an awareness campaign, there is no reason why, as members of Parliament and as a Canadian government, we cannot assist in that effort. In speaking to the motion today, all four parties have delivered speeches on it, which means a point of awareness needs to happen. All the members who spoke today referred to that.

With respect a commitment to research, as indicated in my speech, it important to continue to better understand anaphylaxis and its impact. The more we research, the more diligent we become, we will have better opportunities to find a way to beat this disease at a very early age, rather than individuals having to be concerned their whole lives about what they are eating.

We have improved allergy labelling, which is a huge concern within allergy circles and organizations in the country. The input they have had, whether it be, as the mover of the motion said, the assistance of individuals and groups locally or across this country, speaks to the issue. They all speak with one voice.

The fact that we have moved forward on labelling speaks volumes to where the government wants to move with respect to this issue.

Finally, with respect to the issue of transportation safeguards, there is no question that Canada is geographically large. We need to be concerned and we need to continue to work on those issues relating to transportation and food allergies.

Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I highly support the motion and I congratulate the member for bringing it forward. As one of the members who wrote to the government saying that we needed action on this front, I am delighted to see it going forward.

It would be impossible for people to remember all the products. Anaphylaxis affects over one million people. It could cause death to some people if they ate the wrong products. As a result of the complexity of today's foods, the adding of additives and all kinds of things, one can never know for sure if a certain item is in a product unless that item is specifically labelled.

Our leader has talked about increasing labelling and inspection to make foods safer in Canada. He talked a lot about that in rural Canada. In that spirit, I definitely support the idea brought forward by our critic, that no company should be exempt, for any reason, because anaphylaxis is dangerous for some Canadians.

I definitely congratulate the member and I strongly support the motion.

Private Members' Business



Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to express my support for Motion No. 546, which was brought forward by the member for Niagara West—Glanbrook.

This is a big issue for my constituents of Kelowna—Lake Country, as we have heard from folks across the country. My niece and her daughter are celiac. I met with folks last week who were affected by this.

The motion is a great step forward, and I appreciate the leadership taken by the Minister of Health. I had the opportunity to be at the announcement that day along with my colleagues. I remember the smiles on the faces of Mr. George and his family with whom we have worked so hard over the years to bring this initiative forward. I believe consumers should have an informed choice. Labelling improvement and the regulations will help those Canadians suffering from anaphylactic reactions.

We perhaps do not realize how important this is to the approximately 2.8 million Canadians who suffer different allergic reactions to sulphites and other things. By doing this, we will be giving them a quality of life that they have not had an opportunity to enjoy.

It is also much more expensive when individuals who suffer allergic reactions go to the store with a shopping list on an 8.5x11 piece of paper of all the different potential chemical analyses, as my hon. colleague from the NDP mentioned. My niece said that she felt like a scientist when she went to the store. There is an additional cost and burden on young families. The motion would help provide more options for these people and would help bring down the cost. It also would help them with their food budget.

We are highlighting for the Government of Canada additional issues with regard to this specific issue, such as allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites.

On February 16, the regulations were published by Health Canada. These regulations will come into force on August 4, 2012, and require priority allergens to be clearly indicated on the label on the food either in the list of ingredients or in a separate statement that begins with the word “contains”. These labelling requirements will improve the quality of life for individuals and their families suffering from severe food allergies, celiac disease or sulphite sensitivity. By minimizing the risks associated with the consumption of undeclared allergens, gluten sources and sulphites, the government is maximizing the choice of safe and nutritious foods for those with dietary restrictions.

Until the new regulations come into force, Canadians can find additional information on what to look for on food labels to safely identify the presence of allergens, gluten sources and sulphites in Health Canada's pamphlet entitled “Common Food Allergies - A Consumer’s Guide to Managing the Risks”.

I thank my colleague and all members of the House for supporting the motion, as we continue to provide important regulatory and labelling changes for Canadians in order to provide them with a quality of life that they have been unable to enjoy.