2013-2014 Peanut in Snack Foods with a Peanut-Free Claim

Executive Summary

Targeted surveys are used by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to focus its surveillance activities on areas of highest risk. The information gained from these surveys provides both support for the prioritization of the Agency's activities to areas of greater concern and scientific evidence to address areas of lesser concern. Originally started under the Food Safety Action Plan (FSAP), targeted surveys have been incorporated into the CFIA's regular surveillance activities as a valuable tool for generating essential information on certain hazards in foods, identifying/characterizing new and emerging hazards, informing trend analysis, prompting/refining human health risk assessments, assessing compliance with Canadian regulations, highlighting potential contamination issues, and promoting compliance.

A wide variety of prepackaged snack foods are available on the Canadian market and include products like baked goods, cereal/granola bars, chocolate, cookies, crackers, and puddings. In some cases, an allergen may be present in prepackaged food products as a result of cross-contamination prior to or during manufacturing, which may indicate a breakdown in good manufacturing practices or allergen controls. The presence of an undeclared allergen in a food may represent a serious or life-threatening health risk for allergic or sensitive individuals. Some prepackaged snack foods have allergen-free claims on the labels. Allergen-free claims imply that measures have been taken by the company to ensure that the claim is accurate, and provides a measure of reassurance to an allergic individual or their caregiver.

The main objectives of this targeted survey were to obtain baseline information regarding the presence and levels of undeclared peanut in prepackaged snack foods which have a peanut-free claim on the label, and to identify potential food safety concerns related to undeclared peanut for the peanut-allergic population.

A total of 989 samples were collected and analysed for the presence of peanut. Samples targeted in this survey included prepackaged snack foods (chocolate, cookies, and snack bars) that had a peanut-free claim on the label.

None of the 989 samples were positive for peanut. Follow-up actions were not deemed necessary given that none of the samples were positive for peanut.

The CFIA will continue its surveillance activities and inform the Canadian public and stakeholders of its findings.

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