Health Canada announces new front-of-package label regulations

5 minute read
30 June 2022

Today the Minister of Health announced new front-of-package nutrition labelling regulations for packaged food that are high in saturated fat, sugars and/or sodium. Under the new regulations, most prepackaged foods that meet or exceed certain daily value levels of saturated fat, sugars and/or sodium will be required to display a front-of-package symbol. The symbol, which consists of a black and white magnifying glass and accompanying text, must be easily seen on the front of packages of all sizes, it must be located in the upper right half of the label and it must be written in both English and French.

The regulations have yet to be published but Health Canada released a news release and backgrounder providing certain details, including that the regulations will come into force on January 1, 2026, giving manufacturers until that date to change their labels to comply with the new requirements. The delayed coming into force to January 2026 is meant to reduce immediate compliance costs to industry and allow them to plan for the change and make necessary adjustments to their packaging. A shorter coming into force could easily double compliance costs. While the exceptions provided in the announcement are expected to reduce the overall costs to industry from the previous Canada Gazette, Part 1 estimate in February 2018, it will still represent a significant cost investment for specific companies in different food product segments specifically targeted by the regulations.

The foods that will require the symbol include:

  • General prepackaged foods that meet or exceed 15 per cent of the daily value of saturated fat, sugars or sodium (such as deli meats, soups, frozen desserts or puddings).
  • Prepackaged foods with a small reference amount (meaning the amount of food a person typically consumes in one sitting) that meet or exceed 10 per cent of the daily value of saturated fat, sugars or sodium (such as pickles, salad dressings, cookies or breakfast cereals).
  • Prepackaged main dishes with a reference amount greater than or equal to 200 grams that meet or exceed 30 per cent of the daily value of saturated fat, sugars or sodium (such as frozen lasagna, meat pie or pizza).

Some foods are exempted:

  • Foods that have recognized health protection benefits, including fresh, frozen, canned or dried fruits and vegetables; 2% or whole milk; eggs; foods with a healthy fat profile, such as vegetable oils, nuts and fatty fish; and any combination of these foods as long as they do not include ingredients that contain saturated fat, sugars and/or sodium.
  • Foods that are a source of nutrients that are not readily available in other foods and that most Canadians do not get enough of, such as cheese and yogurt, which contain calcium and are made from dairy products.
  • Foods that are formulated to meet the needs of specific populations, such as rations for military personnel use.

Health Canada also identified the following technical and practical exemptions:

  • Foods that do not require a nutrition facts table (i.e., raw or single-ingredient whole meats).
  • Raw, single-ingredient ground meats and poultry.
  • Foods not sold directly to consumers and foods in very small packages (such as coffee creamers).
  • Foods on which a symbol would be redundant (such as sugar, butter or table salt).

Health Canada has stated that exemptions will be reassessed after ten years.

More details will be forthcoming with the publication of the regulations in Canada Gazette, Part 2 which is expected mid-next week. Gowling WLG Food and Beverage Group will be providing updates – please subscribe to our Food, Natural Health Products & Cosmetics Law newsletter to keep up to date on this and other food regulatory issues.

Should you have any specific questions or would like to discuss further, please contact any member of our Food and Beverage Group.

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