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The scoop on ice cream and allergies

Is your sweet tooth calling?

As temperatures rise, so do many Canadians' cravings for ice cream! But food allergies can prove to be a serious or life-threatening health risk for people of all ages, including children.

According to Statistics Canada, there were 5.46 litres of ice cream available for per person consumption in 2020.

Ice cream is typically made with milk, milk solids or other forms of dairy with ingredients derived from milk. However, if you or your child are allergic to milk, peanuts or tree nuts, have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, you have options!

Here are some tips to beat the heat and safely enjoy frozen desserts, ice cream and other cool treats.

For people who are allergic to milk or lactose intolerant and can't eat or drink dairy products, there are a number of allergy-friendly, milk-free and vegan products. These are made using non-dairy contents like almond milk, soy milk or coconut milk. Sorbet is another dairy-free frozen dessert that can be enjoyed instead.

When buying these products, check the label carefully to make sure it states that it's a "milk-free", "no dairy" or "dairy-free" product.

Allergies and food labels

The ten most common food allergens linked to severe allergic or allergy-like reactions in Canada are peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, seafood (fish, shellfish and crustaceans), eggs, milk, soy, mustard, wheat and sulphites. These "priority allergens" must be listed in the ingredient list of pre-packaged food.

Cross-contamination happens when an ingredient, such as a food allergen, may have come into contact with a food product that doesn't normally have that ingredient. Manufacturers can add a warning statement to foods, including ice cream products, that may have come in contact with an allergen at some point in the manufacturing process.

The nut-free zone

Ice cream and other frozen desserts may contain peanuts or tree nuts. For example, many products include almonds, pistachios or peanuts.

If you or a loved one is allergic to peanuts or tree nuts, check the ingredient list on the label every time you shop. Sometimes manufacturers change the ingredients in products. Different kinds and sizes of the same brand and product may have different ingredients or may have been made in different places.

Celiac disease and gluten intolerance

Most ice cream is naturally gluten-free. This is usually the case for single-flavour ice creams like strawberry, vanilla and chocolate.

However, many other flavours do have gluten because starches, flavourings and toppings are added. Examples of flavours that might also include gluten-based ingredients are chocolate brownie, cookie dough, cookies and cream, or cheesecake.

Check the label carefully and contact the manufacturer to make sure the product is gluten-free. It's best to stay away from food products that do not list their ingredients, that contain an ingredient that you don't know, or if you don't understand the language written on the packaging.

Reporting to the CFIA

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) enforces Canada's labelling laws and works with associations, distributors, food manufacturers and importers to verify that food labelling is complete and accurate.  

If you believe a product was not labelled properly or you had an allergic or other reaction from a product that may have contained food allergens or other items not listed on the ingredient list, you can report it to the CFIA.

The CFIA will investigate the issue and take the necessary action to protect consumers. This could include recalling the affected products.

To get the latest food recalls and allergy alert notifications, subscribe at recalls.canada.ca.

Stay safe (and cool) all year round!

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