Saturday, April 16, 2011

Not All Recalls Are Created Equal

Not all recalls are created equal. In Canada Health Canada is in charge of making the laws and regulations surrounding food and drug safety and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is in charge of upholding the laws and regulations for food. The CFIA used to only make Class 1 recalls public … meaning only Class 1 recalls made it to the media so that everyone knows about it.  This is technically still the case, but the CFIA has decided to be more open about recalls and also post the Class II and Class III recalls on their website:

This is great news.

Do you ever hear about gluten recalls in the news? Not so much. It’s because not all recalls are created equal. According to the CFIA website, the CFIA assesses each possible food recall according to risk. This is how they define the three different levels of recalls:

"Class I" (high risk) is a situation in which there is a reasonable probability that the use of, or exposure to, a violative product will cause serious adverse health consequences or death.
"Class II" (moderate risk) is a situation in which the use of, or exposure to, a violative product may cause temporary adverse health consequences or where the probability of serious adverse health consequences is remote.
"Class III" (low risk) is a situation in which the use of, or exposure to, a violative product is not likely to cause any adverse health consequences.

It seems, by watching the new recall openness, that most gluten recalls are classed as II or III’s. It’s probably because although there might be gluten in a product, there might not be enough of it to trigger a reaction? Or perhaps it’s because a Celiac isn’t going to have an anaphylactic reaction? Although, I’m sure there is sound reasoning behind the decisions, I, as a super sensitive Celiac myself don’t agree with most of them. 

Some of them I agree with, though. I saw that there was a recall on a Spelt product and Celiacs are supposed to know that Spelt is an ancient form of Wheat and does in fact contain gluten. Although, trust me, many non-celiacs would like me to believe differently (and I fell for it myself when I was newly diagnosed). So yeah, if you aren't supposed to be consuming it in the first place then it probably doesn't deserve to be a media wide recall.

Anyways, since the recalls at all levels are now being posted on the CFIA website and you can sign up for notifications, we, as a Celiac Community, can now be more aware of the foods to avoid. I highly encourage you to sign up for the notifications and become more aware of the recalls that are out there.  They even have a page where you can select the specific allergen you want to know about and it will show you all of the reports for the past few years:

If you don’t like the CFIA website, there is another website called Health and Safety Watch that is run by a doctor. All of the recalls for toys, food, drugs, drinking water, etc are all listed (for Canada) and if you sign up, you can pick which type of recalls get sent to your email, if you want any sent to your email at all. Check it out here:

Trust me, these notifications come in handy. For instance, I blogged about making a fantastic gluten free curry dinner a while back and although all the ingredients should have been gluten free, I had a reaction. I had just bought all new spices and wasn’t sure if it was the spices or not. I also thought that maybe it was the dessert, as I served gulab jamun for dessert, which I bought from the store (it came in a can). I was mulling it over and thought it must be the dessert because I didn’t have any problems up until that time, but couldn’t say for sure. Of course, since then I haven’t used either the spices or bought the dessert again. Then a few days ago a gluten recall (level II) was posted for undeclared gluten in gulab jamun:

Well now I know that my spices were okay! Sadly, I also know to avoid those tasty tasty treats :( I remember at the time of purchase, wondering how they could make these 'balls' out of just milk and sugar, but the ingredients list did not mention wheat or gluten of any kind. Now I feel slightly vindicated in my suspicions, but apparently I still took the chance because the label was inaccurate.

Stay informed, stay healthy :)

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