Labelling of packaged food in Canada has undergone some regulatory changes in the last few years, and there are some proposals for label revisions that have been active for some time. While these were posted for consultation, and the consultations closed in 2019, they have yet to be finalized. As with most things in 2020, we can blame the Covid-19 pandemic for the delay.
The following summarizes the changes in effect for Canadian food labels.
Changes regarding serving size, Nutrition Facts Table (NFT) and ingredient listing presentation were published on December 14, 2016. These changes were published with a 5-year transition date, i.e. labels should comply with the new style by December 14, 2021. In the intervening years (well before Covid-19), there was some talk of extending that deadline by one more year, but nothing official was published.
The two label change initiatives mentioned above that were under consideration, but are not yet finalized, are (i)Front of Pack Labelling (Health Canada initiative under Safe Food for Canadians Act and Regulations), and (ii) Food Labelling Modernization (CFIA initiative), which will be discussed in further detail below.
Food Labelling Modernization:
The following are changes proposed to food labelling by the Canadian Federal Inspection Agency (CFIA)
- Standard container sizes – changes to certain prescribed standard container sizes.
- Use of class names – Use of Group names for similar ingredients, such as “vegetable oil”, “flavour” or “milk ingredients”. The list of mandatory and optional class names is to be aligned with international standards.
- Streamline commodity-specific labelling – Many current requirements are very prescriptive and outdated. These are proposed to be streamlined to remove duplication and burden for the industry.
- Definition of “Test Market Food” – A test market authorization (TMA) gives a short-term exemption from regulatory requirements to allow a company to test a new product on the market. Currently, there is no consistent process and criteria for all foods.
- Date marking – Currently applies to foods with a durable life of 90 days or less. The proposal is to apply the requirement to all foods.
- Company information – Alternate methods of communication to be allowed, such as phone number, email, or website address
- Country of origin of imported food – Currently, only some types of imported food must declare the country or state of origin on the label. The proposal is to require an indication of the country or state of origin for all wholly imported foods.
- Streamline commodity-specific labelling – Currently, there is no overall requirement about how to describe a food, but there are many commodity-specific prescriptive requirements. The proposal is to introduce requirements to describe the true nature of the food and eliminate many commodity-specific requirements.
- Legibility and location of type size – Currently, there are inconsistent requirements for font size and placement of text across food types. Consistent text requirements for all foods have been proposed.
- Characterizing ingredients – Claims or pictures emphasizing the presence of key ingredients can mislead consumers. It is proposed to declare % of characterizing ingredients on the label, the example uses “flavoured” descriptor when food is added in flavouring amounts.
You can find an overview of the proposed changes here: https://www.inspection.gc.ca/consultations-and-engagement/proposed-regulatory-changes/eng/1560907775533/1560907775762
Front of Package Nutrition Labelling
The proposal is to add logos or pictorials on the Principal Display Panel (PDP) for food products high in saturated fat, sugars, and sodium. The method of alerting the consumer (which pictorial to use) is still not finalized. The proposed labelling threshold values are 15% DV (Daily Value) for these three items. The amount is to be considered as per the serving size.
We recommend to our clients to ensure that the changes published in 2016 are adopted to current food packaging as soon as possible, if those changes have not been made already.
We also recommend that all marketers of packaged food should review their food product categories to determine if their packaging will be further affected by the proposed changes under the Food Labelling Modernization or Front of Package initiatives. If you have any questions about this article or any related to food labeling, or any other regulatory matter, please contact dicentra today.