Government of Canada improves access to gluten-free foods

May 29, 2015, 15:16 ET from Health Canada

New category of "gluten-free" claims allowed for specially produced oats

OTTAWA, May 29, 2015 /CNW/ - To mark Celiac Awareness Month, the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health today announced changes that will result in more safe food choices for Canadians with celiac disease by approving "gluten-free" claims on specially produced oats and foods containing these oats.

Gluten-containing grains such as wheat, rye and barley are widely used in the production of many foods. People with celiac disease must avoid eating the gluten protein found in these grains to manage their condition. In the case of oats, normal agricultural practices can result in the unintended presence of small amounts gluten from other grains. However, recent evidence shows that oats can safely be consumed by the majority of people with celiac disease, as long as they have been produced and processed to avoid cross-contamination by gluten from other cereals. Health Canada will now allow specially produced oats with trace amounts of gluten to carry a "gluten-free" claim.

On November 14, 2014, at an event in Saskatoon, Member of Parliament for Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar Kelly Block, on behalf of Minister Ambrose, announced Health Canada's intent to allow the use of "gluten-free" claims. The Government remains committed to making safe and healthy foods available to Canadians as well as improving the options for Canadians with food allergies and intolerances.

Quick Facts

  • Celiac disease is an inherited medical condition that is triggered by the consumption of gluten. The immune system of an individual with celiac disease reacts negatively to gluten in the diet by causing damage to the inner lining of the small intestine, which reduces the person's ability to absorb nutrients.
  • Health Canada's decision is based on current scientific evidence, which shows that it is safe for the majority of people with celiac disease to eat specially produced oats, so long as they do not contain more than 20 parts per million of gluten from wheat, rye, barley or their hybridized strains.
  • This labelling change opens a new segment of the market to Canadian oat growers and food processors. The opportunity to reach customers with gluten-free diets will increase farmers' revenue for oats, which in 2014 contributed nearly half a billion dollars to Canada's economy.


"These changes will make it easier for Canadians with celiac disease to make safe and informed food choices. By allowing a gluten-free claim on specially produced oats and foods that contain them, consumers with gluten sensitivities will be better able to identify products they can safely eat."
Rona Ambrose
Minister of Health

"We are pleased that Health Canada has made important changes that will benefit the celiac community through allowing gluten-free claims on specially produced oats and products containing these oats. Oats are a nutritious grain and can add variety for those who must follow a strict gluten-free diet for life. The term "gluten-free oats" on labels will make it much easier for the gluten-free consumer to identify products that they can safely eat."
Anne Wraggett
President of the Canadian Celiac Association

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SOURCE Health Canada