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Science in action: protecting people with allergies

2.6 million Canadians are affected by food allergies. So how does the CFIA help to protect you and your loved ones?

Science in action: protecting people with allergies – Transcript

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency corporate introduction plays. It shows images that represent the work of the Agency including a Petri dish, strawberries, a growing plant, a chicken and a maple leaf.

Text: CFIA – Safeguarding with Science

Gentle piano music.

A woman is sitting on a couch in her living room. On a piece of furniture behind her are two frames with pictures of her son and daughter.


Stephany speaks to an interviewer who is off camera.

Both of my kids, when they were born, they had terrible skin, like eczema. We didn't really know why. With my son, he was very sickly as a child. He was always vomiting.

A young boy is having fun with a dog in the dining room.

Change of plan to the same boy in the living room playing with a cardboard game.

When it came to the six-month period where you're supposed to introduce milk and cereal, he had an anaphylactic reaction in the highchair where his lips and his tongue all swelled up. He ended up with an urgent referral to an allergist and that's when we found out.

Text: Science in action: protecting people with allergies

A young boy and a girl are sitting on the sofa in the living room.

The girl speaks to the camera.

Text: Hannah

I'm allergic to peanut, tree nut, basically all types of seeds.

The boy is talking to the camera.

Text: Aidan

Peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, shellfish, eggs and milk.

Stephany speaks to an interviewer who is off camera.

At the age of two and a half, he got a flick of milk out of a straw into his eye and he was not breathing in less than five minutes.

Aidan addresses the camera.

I started to swell up, and then I could not breathe. As soon as my mom gave me the EpiPen, I took a deep breath.

The girl speaks to the camera.

Text: Hannah

I ran behind the counter and hid.

Stephany speaks to an interviewer who is off camera.

Going to the grocery store initially, when I was learning, could take up to two hours to do. But if I didn't have the labelling on the containers or boxes where I could very quickly [verify the ingredients]…

Hannah shows a container of cookies on camera.

Aidan and Hannah open the cookie container.

It's been simplified from when I first had to start doing this, so when you look at something, the labelling is much clearer and much more self-explanatory. You don't have to try to guess. I can just very easily go to the bottom of the ingredients and see out of the top eight allergens what is in there.

Aidan smiles at the camera. A cake and cookies are on the table in front of him.

Knowing especially what is in everything I buy has helped to make me feel safer…

Hannah smiles at the camera while eating a cookie.

…and the kids feel safer knowing that what I'm giving them is safe and there's nothing in there that's going to make them sick.

A scientist pours a liquid into a laboratory flask.

Voice of a man off camera.

Canada has one of the best food safety systems in the world, and allergen analysis is no exception.

The man, sitting in a laboratory, speaks to an interviewer who is off camera.

Text: Éric Marceau, Science Laboratory Specialist, Longueuil Laboratory of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Things have changed a lot in terms of food allergens. Since the beginning of my career, we have seen the number of requests for analyses explode. We, in the laboratory had to react to that, deal with it and develop new [testing] methods. In 2001, we had only four [testing] methods.

Image succession of different laboratory instruments.

Over the years, research projects have been implemented and methods have been developed for each of the allergens on Canada's list of priority allergens.

A lab instrument moves small vials.

Today, more than 70 methods are used to respond to requests for analysis. The CFIA is a leader in the field of food allergen analysis.

Different camera shots of a lab instrument.

Not only do we use advanced technologies, but also powerful methods to ensure that our results are reliable.

Stephany, sitting on the couch in her living room, talks to an interviewer who is out of the camera.

The main thing that I have is that I get alerts by email from CFIA about foods that have been recalled; food that was thought to be allergen free but then was found to have something.

Hanna and Aidan sitting at the table are eating cookies.

I get those all of the time and it alerts me to think "did I buy this?" and, you know, I shouldn't be using it anymore. Or changes to the ingredients of a product that maybe I have been using and that I can no longer continue using.

Éric Marceau, sitting in a laboratory, talks to an interviewer who is off camera.

What I find interesting is that my work has an impact on people who have allergies.

Stephany, Aidan and Hannah, sitting on their couch, smile at the camera.

Not only people who have allergies but also their families and loved ones.

Succession of images of different laboratory tests on cookies and eggs.

The work that is done here is important work.

Succession of images of scientists at work in a laboratory.

When we see a food recall in the newspaper, the morning after our work, it is very satisfying to think that the whole team was able to contribute to this and that we might have been able to prevent some people with allergies from having a reaction.

Text: Sign up to receive the latest food recall warnings:

Canada wordmark. Copyright Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada (Canadian Food Inspection Agency), 2017.

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