Front-of-pack nutrition labelling requirements are one step closer

26 February 2018


Health Canada has published proposed changes to the Food and Drug Regulations ("FDR") which, among other things, would implement its proposal to have front-of-package ("FOP") nutrition symbols for certain foods.

The proposal was published in Canada Gazette Part 1 on February 10, 2018. Comments on the proposed changes can be submitted until April 26, 2018.

Health Canada is simultaneously conducting a separate consultation on the proposed FOP symbols. That consultation is available on the Health Canada website, and will also be open until April 26, 2018. The FOP symbols would ultimately be established in a Directory of Nutrition Symbol Formats, which would be incorporated by reference into the FDR.

While the proposed regulations do not address the symbol itself that is to be used on the labels, they establish the criteria that would trigger use of the symbols, and introduce a number of associated requirements with significant implications. Specifically, the proposed FOP symbols will be triggered on products that are "high in" (greater than 15% daily value) sugar, sodium or saturated fat per serving of stated size or per reference amount, with additional daily value calculation considerations for prepackaged meals, foods with a high proportion of healthy fats, and foods with a serving size of less than 50 g.

The regulations would also include a number of exemptions from the FOP symbol requirements, based on factors such as package size, product type (e.g. individual portions solely intended to be served by a restaurant; products that are considered desirable because of other nutrient levels, such as whole milk).

Where an FOP symbol is required on the label, the proposed regulations set out that the symbol must be on either the top or rightmost 25% of the principle display panel (depending on package size/shape) and must meet prescribed formatting requirements related to size and "buffer zones" around the symbols where no other text can appear.

The proposed regulations would also remove the table of permitted nutrient content claims, and instead incorporate by reference the Table of Permitted Nutrient Content Statements and Claims (the "Nutrient Claim Table"), to be published by Health Canada. A separate consultation document has been published with respect to the actual permitted nutrient content claims. By moving the claims and associated criteria to the Nutrient Claim Table that is incorporated by reference, Health Canada will have greater flexibility to make changes to these claims and underlying criteria moving forward.

In addition, the proposal includes updates to increase mandatory vitamin D fortification in milk and margarine, align the regulations with Health Canada's ban on the use of partially hydrogenated oils in foods, and remove most special labelling requirements for high-intensity sweeteners.

While the comments received during this consultation period may impact the timelines for implementation, Health Canada is currently intending to publish the final regulation in December, 2018, and allow a four-year implementation period for companies to updated their labels (December, 2022).

Health Canada has also proposed to grant a one-year extension to the deadline for implementing the changes to the nutrition facts table, serving size, and ingredient listing. These changes are currently required to be implemented by December, 2021, so the extension would align the implementation dates for both sets of label changes being effected under the Healthy Eating Strategy.

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