Food Labelling Requirements Canada - Velletta Pedersen Christie - Sankar Nair

Food Labelling Requirements for the Food Industry – December 2022

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Sankar Nair

Food Labelling Requirements

The deadline to meet Health Canada’s food labelling requirements is December 14, 2022.

On December 14, 2016, the Government of Canada announced initiatives to change Canada’s Food and Drug Regulations to help Canadians make healthier and more informed choices by promoting transparency and modernizing the way foods products are labelled. The Canadian food industry was provided a 5-year transitionary period ending on December 2021. Given the impact of COVID-19 on the food industry, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency focused its efforts on education and compliance promotion until December 14, 2022. As of December 15, 2022, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will verify compliance and apply enforcement discretion in circumstances where non-compliant companies have detailed plans showing how they intend to meet the new requirements at the earliest possible time. Offences relating to the Food and Drug Act are punishable by fine alone, imprisonment, or both. While imprisonment may be unlikely, depending on the scenario, fines can range up to $250,000 for food related offences.

Changes to Food Labelling

Some relevant changes to the Food and Drug Regulations involve changes to:

  1. the Nutrition Facts Table to help Canadians make informed decisions, including, but not limited to:
    • adding potassium to the list of nutrients; and
    • removing vitamin A and vitamin C from the list of nutrients.
  2. the serving size to make comparing food products easier;
  3. the display and declaration of sugar-based ingredients and sugar content to help you:
    • see the sugars added to your food;
    • identify the sources of sugars; and
    • understand how much sugar by weight is added to the food compared to other ingredients.
  4. the reduced display of high-intensity sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, neotame, and acesulfame-potassium on the front of the package; and
  5. the display and declaration of all food colours to their common name.

Practical Challenges to New Food Labelling Requirements

In addition to the rising cost of ingredients, the new food labelling requirements create more practical challenges for pre-existing food industry businesses who produce, market, and distribute food products within Canada. Food industry businesses that wish to act in compliance with the new food labelling requirements may incur additional costs to:

  1. confirm the nutrient content within each unique food product, especially for potassium which was not previously required;
  2. update non-compliant graphic designs of food packaging with new compliant packaging designs;
  3. manufacture new compliant packaging and labelling for each unique food product; and,
  4. dispose or recycle non-compliant packaging.

Notwithstanding the above noted changes, by January 1, 2026, a front-of-package nutrition symbol is required on foods that are high in one or more of the following nutrients: sodium, sugars, and saturated fats. The front-of-package nutrition symbol has specific requirements for its size, location, and language. Thus, when designing and manufacturing packaging in bulk for compliance with the 2022 requirements, food industry businesses intending to sell prepackaged foods with a long-term vision of growth should consider implementing the front-of-package nutrition symbol in advance of January 1, 2026 to minimize future expenses.

Legal Advice on Food Labelling Requirements

Velletta Pedersen Christie represents various food industry businesses across Canada from the producers of plant-based alternatives to traditional prepackaged snacks. We understand the process of starting a food industry business and can provide knowledgeable advice to help you navigate the complex rules involved with the Food and Drugs Act, the Food and Drugs Regulations, and the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations. While most prepackaged food products must adhere to federally regulated core labelling requirements, there are various exemptions and food-specific rules which producers must be aware of. Understanding the various exemptions, qualifications, and food-specific rules can be overwhelming during the tight timelines often involved with producing, packaging, and distributing food products.

If you are developing a food product, seeking a review of your food product labels, or interested in importing or exporting food products, contact us now to learn more about your options.

A Cautionary Note

This article provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.