5th Annual Food Regulatory & Quality Assurance Summit

Enabling opportunities for businesses to expand their knowledge to develop strategies and standards to be more compliant in an ever-changing environment from a regulatory and quality assurance standpoint is one of the keys for maintaining business competitiveness in today’s marketplace. With that thought in mind, WFIM is pleased to be partnering once again with the Strategy Institute who will be hosting its 5th Annual Food Regulatory & Quality Assurance Summit in Toronto on October 21st and 22nd, 2014.

This special Event for those in the Food and Beverage Sector is designed to help Regulatory, Quality Assurance and Food Safety practitioners in manufacturing, processing and the retail sector prepare for Canada’s new regulatory requirements. It provides an excellent forum to gain peer insights through best practice sharing and industry perspectives from experts focused on Canadian Food Regulations.

Timely and relevant topics such as: Regulatory Modernization, Health and Wellness Claims, Recall Management, GMO Labelling, Sodium Reduction Trends, Traceability, Risk Mitigation, GFSI Certification, Quality Assurance and a Retailers Roundtable with an excellent line-up of speakers from the US Food & Drug Administration, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Clif Bar & Company, Mars Incorporated, Walmart Canada Corp., Target Canada, Monsanto Canada Inc., VegPro International, John Morrell Food Group, Plats Du Chef, Olymel and Sensient Flavors Canada – promise to make this a wonderful learning opportunity!

To view a complete Agenda for this special Summit including venue information and registration details, please visit:  http://www.foodregulationcanada.com.

When:                  October 21st and 22nd, 2014
Where:                 Marriott Toronto Airport, Toronto

As a special media sponsor, WFIM is very pleased to be able to extend a special 20% discount to its Members – please use VIP Discount Code WFIM20 when registering!

Without a doubt, this Event presents participants with a wonderful opportunity to network with industry leaders, to share experiences and challenges with peers, and stay up to date with important industry developments that may affect your organization.

For more information on the 5th Annual Food Regulatory and Quality Assurance Summit, please feel free to contact the Strategy Institute at 1-866-298-9343 ext 200 (registrations@strategyinstitute.com) or Bren at 519-396-6521 (bdeleeuw@emccanada.org).

On behalf of the Strategy Institute and WFIM, we sincerely hope that you are able to participate in this very special Summit!

Beware of Gluten-Free Claims

“Gluten free” has spread like wildfire. In hot pursuit of sales, brand owners are jumping on the bandwagon and gluten-free products appear to have taken over the grocery aisles.

Through participation in Canadian Celiac Association (CCA) conferences, I have learned a great deal about the gluten problem and, as a result, am concerned about the reliability of gluten-free claims.

In conversations with food processors and brand owners who make gluten-free claims, it is clear that many do not understand the risks behind manufacturing gluten-free products in compliance with Health Canada regulations.They do not know, what they do not know. And that puts their brand and customers at risk.

The Regulations

In Canada, gluten-free foods are classified as “Foods for Special Dietary Use”. Section B.24.018. of the Food and Drug Regulations states: “It is prohibited to label, package, sell or advertise a food in a manner likely to create an impression that it is a gluten-free food if the food contains any gluten protein or modified gluten protein, including any gluten protein fraction, referred to in the definition “gluten”… ”

They go on to define “gluten” as:

“(a) any gluten protein from the grain of any of the following cereals or the grain of a hybridized strain created from at least one of the following cereals: barley,
triticale, or
wheat, kamut or spelt; or

(b) any modified gluten protein, including any gluten protein fraction, that is derived from the grain of any of the cereals referred to in subparagraphs [above] or the grain of a hybridized strain referred to in paragraph (a).”

Note that oats are included in the definition. I still see brands at trade shows advertising products with oats as “gluten free”. Even when made with “pure uncontaminated oats”, Canada does not permit a gluten-free claim.

Unfortunately, Health Canada’s rules do not specify the threshold for gluten. For that, we must look to the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) who is responsible for enforcement. When making a gluten-free claim on a product, its gluten content must be LESS THAN 20 ppm (parts per million). To help you visualize how minute this is, consider the following example: a typical flat screen TV has 2 million pixels; 20 ppm is equivalent to only 40 pixels. That’s a scary thought for anyone with celiac disease.

The Watch-Out

Contrary to popular belief, just because a food does not inherently contain gluten, like rice for example, does not mean it is gluten free.

The Culprits

#1. Cross-contamination can come from anywhere in the supply chain, from the field to the fork.

Major risk areas include raw ingredients, manufacturing facilities, packaging, transportation and storage. Take a look at our grain handling system. Wheat and other grains are stored in the same elevators and transported in the same trucks, unless they are handled by grain companies certified under the Canadian Identity Preserved Recognition System (CIPRS).

#2. Common ingredients used in food processing, such as additives, seasonings and sauces, can be hidden sources of gluten. Even packaging materials and adhesives may contain gluten.

What are the risks?

  • Subjecting your customers to illness.
  • Your product could be the cause of a costly recall that will spread through the supply chain. CFIA tests products labelled as “gluten free”. Those with 20 or more ppm of gluten could be recalled. That means paying the costs of withdrawing the product from the market, designing and printing new labels, re-labelling, re-distribution, reimbursing retailers, paying penalties and losing sales in the meantime. Is it worth the risk?
  • Negative publicity that will damage the brand’s reputation, erode customer trust and ultimately result in lost sales.

How can “less than 20 ppm” be detected?

There are a number of scientific tests to detect the presence of gluten. But, according to medical doctors speaking at the CCA conference, these tests are not 100% reliable. 

How do consumers know whom to trust?

There is a plethora of “gluten-free” symbols in the market. Many are self-declarations; in other words, the brand owner created the “certification mark”. Some “gluten-free certifications” are based entirely on end product testing. However, that’s not good enough. CFIA states “manufacturers and importers should have good manufacturing/importing practices (GMP/GIP) in place to achieve the lowest levels of gluten possible to avoid cross-contamination.”

The Solution

Making a gluten-free claim can be a minefield in the absence of preventive control measures. The solution is a HACCP-based gluten-free management system for food processing facilities. That’s the principle behind the Canadian Celiac Association’s, Gluten-Free Certification Program (GFCP),which is based on Canadian regulations. To ensure compliance with GFCP requirements, annual audits from independent third party auditors are required.

Building Trust in Your Brand

The Gluten-Free Certification Program is an investment that goes beyond protecting your brand. Products prominently displaying the GFCP mark stand out on shelf, are differentiated from competitors and build trust in your brand.


Check out these links to learn more about Canadian regulations and the Gluten-Free Certification Program.



Posted by Birgit Blain, president of Birgit Blain & Associates Inc.; food business specialists, helping brand owners break down barriers and position their brands for growth. Her experience includes 17 years in the grocery trade with Loblaw Companies and President’s Choice®. Her extensive knowledge base spans product management, account management and food retailing. Learn more at www.BBandAssoc.com

How Prep Instructions Can Impact Sales

Have you ever had to assemble furniture with poor instructions? Then you know how frustrating it can be.

The same applies to food. On one occasion I purchased Chinese dumplings, not having tried them before. The packaging was geared to Chinese consumers but the brand was sold in a conventional supermarket. The cooking instructions were vague, so I followed them as closely as possible. I ended up with a gooey mess, nothing to eat and a time-consuming clean-up job! Needless to say, I will never buy that brand again.

I couldn’t be bothered to take the time to complain to the brand owner, so they will never know there’s a problem. If you are a brand owner, what you DON’T know, can hurt your sales.

Developing prep instructions for mixing or cooking is a blend of science and guesswork.

The final product on the plate depends on a number of variables:
  • Whether the product lends itself to the preparation method; for example, pastry does not crisp up well in a microwave.
  • The clarity of the instructions.
  • The customer’s cooking skills and ability to follow instructions. With Canada being a melting pot of cultures and language abilities, consider how the instructions might be interpreted.
  • Cooking appliances; not all makes and models are created equal. Add age of the appliance to that and performance varies greatly, especially for microwave ovens. Consequently the finished product may be disappointing or even disastrous – not reflecting your brand in a positive light.
How can brand owners ensure their prep instructions measure up?

1.  Developing prep instructions is part of our product development and quality assurance process. If there are several methods for preparing the product (e.g. conventional oven or microwave, stove top or boil-in-bag), choose the one that yields the best results. To allow for variations in appliances, some brands specify a range for cooking times and describe the perfect end result. And don’t forget about minimum internal temperature requirements for food safety.

2.  Testing is paramount; in the test kitchen, using different brands, models and ages of appliances. Also test instructions with your target customers, people with a range of cooking skills and those who are unfamiliar with the product. Employees, friends and family are not the best source for feedback.

3.  Writing easy-to-follow prep instructions is a skill and collaboration between the product developer, quality assurance and the copywriter. This is part of our process for writing the label copy.

You can have the best tasting product in the world but, when the finished dish is not up to scratch, your customer will think twice before buying your brand again.

Posted by Birgit Blain, President of Birgit Blain & Associates Inc., packaged food specialists providing pain relief for food brands. www.BBandAssoc.com