Canadian government amends food laws and launches three new consultations

18 January 2017

Regulations Amending the Food and Drug Regulations (Nutrition Labelling, Other Labelling Provisions and Food Colours)

On Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, the Government of Canada published amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations designed to enable consumers to make informed choices about the foods that they consume. The amendments are significant and include changes to the way information is presented in nutritional fact tables and ingredient listings, changes to reference amounts and serving sizes, permitted claims for fruits and vegetables, and the way that food colouring ingredients must be declared. 

The amendments came into force on Dec. 14, 2016; however, there is a five year transitional period for implementation. For additional details on the changes, see Food Directorate’s guidance available here and documents incorporated by reference can be accessed on the Government of Canada website.

Healthy Eating Strategy

In a similar vein, this fall the Minister of Health launched the Healthy Eating Strategy for Canada. This strategy includes initiatives on improving healthy eating, protecting vulnerable populations, strengthening labelling and claims, improving nutrition quality standards, and supporting increased access to and availability of nutritious foods. On Nov. 14, 2016, Health Canada launched two 60-day consultations on for two initiatives under the Healthy Eating Strategy:

  1. Consultation on front-of-package nutrition labelling. Health Canada is proposing changes to the front-of-package labelling of foods high in sugar, and sodium, saturated fats and proposes to change other front-of-package components, such as label claims and sweetener information. Specifically, Health Canada seeks consultation on warnings for foods high in certain components, nutrient content claims and nutrient-related statements, and nutrient thresholds for warning or identification statements related to nutrient content. Changes to front-of-package labelling will align with updates to ingredient and nutrient fact table requirements, which also form a part of Health Canada’s healthy eating strategy.
  2. Consultation on banning partially hydrogenated oils in foods. Health Canada is proposing new regulations that will ban the use of partially hydrogenated oils in foods. While some foods naturally contain trans fats (e.g. milk, beef, cheese) the proposed new regulations will seek to ban the use of industrially produced trans fats in foods.

Health Canada plans to have further consultations in June 2017. In addition, through the government’s transparency initiative, Health Canada intends to publish a table with information relating to certain correspondence and meetings with stakeholders related to the healthy eating initiatives beyond formal consultation processes. Once posted, you will be able to access information about meetings and correspondence with stakeholders in regard to the healthy eating strategy here.

CFIA Food Labelling Modernization Initiative

Also related to the way prepackaged foods are presented to consumers, on Dec. 1, 2016, as part of its Food Labelling Modernization initiative, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) initiated the third phase of its public consultations on food labelling. This consultation is aimed at gathering input on the proposals that the CFIA developed in response to the initial two phases of the consultation. Some of the proposals include: revising the format of best before dates; improving the legibility and placement of information; improving information on ingredients emphasised through claims or pictures; improving ingredient list class names; and modernizing food compositional standards.

This consultation is in the form of an online survey and is available until Feb. 28, 2017. This is phase III of the Food Labelling Modernization Initiative launched in 2013 – a summary of the previous phases can be viewed here from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

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