Food Labelling Overhauled

August 24, 2015 | Kelly Harris

Federal and Ontario legislation to overhaul in-store advertising requirements and on-pack labelling disclosures

For the first time in a while, there are some sweeping new labelling disclosure requirements coming into play for the food industry, at both the Ontario and federal levels.

In Ontario, the Healthy Menu Choices Act, will come into force on January 1, 2017. This new legislation will require food service providers with 20 or more locations in Ontario to display the calories in food and beverage items. Additional disclosures may also be required by the regulations, which are still pending. These disclosures will need to appear in multiple locations, including on menus, at least one piece of in-store signing, and food items that are put out on display.

Additionally, the federal government is closing in on a conclusion to a years-long consultation process and overhaul of food labelling requirements. While progress is being made, a transition period of 5 years is currently contemplated, which will hopefully leave sufficient time for affected parties to update processes and labels.

The proposed federal changes are primarily focused on the layout and content of food ingredient and nutrition facts table disclosures on pack – see the illustration below. If passed, ingredients lists will soon be revised with mandatory titles, as well as a standardized format and style, including bulleted ingredients, borders, and punctuation.

The federal overhaul also contemplates changes to the types of “core” nutrients that must be declared in the nutrition facts tables, as well as the nutrient daily values. Sugars and sugars-based ingredients will be grouped together as one field, with each source of sugar listed in one sub-list, and given their own daily value in the nutrition facts table. The details about any colouring agents will also be required to be provided in more detail. Notably, the changes will allow fruit and vegetables to be advertised in association with a newly approved claim about the associated reduced risk of heart disease.

These types of changes to labels and advertising do not come without significant costs. Businesses should prepare accordingly for revisions to packaging, in-store menus and signage. For some products, the changed focus on certain nutrients could also necessitate product re-formulation. These regulatory updates will need to be budgeted for, but consider aligning these changes with other business interests. If it is time for an overall branding renovation, why not use the new regulatory requirements as an perfect excuse to bump this up on the to-do list.

Proposed federal changes:

 Illustration showing proposed federal changes to ingredients list

Illustration showing proposed federal changes to nutrition facts

This is a copy of an excerpt from the Canada Gazette, Part I consultation on proposed food label changes, an official work published by the Government of Canada. This article was not produced in affiliation with, or with the endorsement of, the Government of Canada.

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