Health Canada updates mustard labelling advice based on new test methods

Mustard belongs to the Brassicaceae family which also includes canola. It is a priority food allergen in Canada and therefore packaged foods sold in Canada must declare mustard on the label if it is present. In 2016, Health Canada advised the possibility that low amounts of mustard may be unintentionally present in other cereal grains due to the way these grains are grown, harvested, transported and stored. However, it has since been determined that the standard analytical test method for mustard protein – enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay or ELISA – cross-reacts with plant species from the same family as mustard, including canola.

A new analytical method using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) was developed which is capable of distinguishing between different species of the Brassicaceae plant family, including mustard and canola.

By using this test, Health Canada has confirmed that rather than mustard being present, it is in fact canola that has been detected at low levels in some cereal grains. As a result of these findings, Health Canada has updated the mustard labelling guidelines. The new advice states that where canola is present, it is not appropriate for food manufacturers of wheat flour and other grain-based foods to include mustard in the precautionary allergen labelling.

Health Canada’s updated information regarding mustard labelling can be accessed here.