New mandatory front-of-package nutrition symbol for certain food products in Canada

July 13, 2022 | Alissa Ricioppo, Jaclyne Reive

Front-of-Package Labeling Requirements

On June 30th the Federal Minister of Health announced new regulations relating to a mandatory front-of-package nutrition symbol on all prepackaged foods high in sodium, sugars or saturated fat. The symbol has been introduced as a tool to assist in the education of consumers and help them make informed shopping choices, in support of the goal of lowering the risk of diet-related chronic illness amongst Canadians.

The regulations are expected to come into force on July 20, 2022. In the meantime, Health Canada has released online technical guidance and a backgrounder on the use of the nutrition symbol, which are incorporated into the legislation by reference and which manufacturers will be required to follow. Manufacturers will not be required to demonstrate compliance with these changes until January 1, 2026, but may choose to update their packaging sooner.

The symbol will be mandatory where foods meet specified thresholds of sodium, sugars or saturated fat, measured as a percentage of their daily value per reference amount (i.e. the amount of a food a person typically consumes in one sitting) or serving size, whichever is greater, as follows:

  • General prepackaged foods that meet or exceed 15% of the daily value of sodium, sugars or saturated fat (e.g. deli meats, soups, frozen desserts, puddings).
  • Prepackaged foods with a small reference amount (i.e. 30 grams or milliliters or less) that meet or exceed 10% of the daily value of sodium, sugars or saturated fat (e.g. pickles, salad dressing, cookies, breakfast cereals).
  • Prepackaged main dishes with a reference amount of 200 grams or more that meet or exceed 30% of the daily value of saturated sodium, sugars or saturated fat (e.g. frozen lasagna, meat pie or pizza).

The guidelines identify three exemptions. Labels for foods falling within these categories are not required to display the nutrition symbol.

Health related exemptions:

  • Foods that have a recognized health protection benefit for all Canadians or for vulnerable sub-populations and which are not combined with an ingredient that contains sodium, sugars or saturated fat (e.g. whole or cut vegetables or fruits, 2% and whole milk, eggs, vegetable oils, nuts, and fatty fish).
  • Foods that are important sources of “shortfall nutrients,” which are nutrients not readily available in other foods and which most Canadians do not get enough of (e.g. cheese, which is often high in saturated fat but which is also high in calcium – note that to fall within this exemption the product would need to contain a specific percentage of the daily value for calcium). Health Canada has indicated that the need for this exemption will be re-evaluated after 10 years.
  • Foods that are formulated to meet the needs of specific populations (e.g. rations for military personnel).

Technical exemptions:

  • Foods that do not require a nutrition facts table.
  • Raw, single ingredient ground meats and poultry.
  • Foods not sold directly to consumers.
  • Foods sold in very small packages (e.g. mini chocolate bars, coffee creamers).

Practical exemptions:

  • Foods on which the nutrition symbol would be redundant (e.g. honey, butter, table salt).

The nutrition symbol will be black and white, depicts a magnifying glass and identifies if the food is high in sodium, sugars or saturated fat or a combination of these. The regulations will include requirements regarding size and location of the symbol, based on the package shape and size. The symbol must be presented in both English in French, either in two separate symbols or combined into one.

Product Innovation Regulatory Changes

On July 6, 2022, the Government of Canada also published the Food Product Innovation changes in the Canada Gazette, Part II. Both the Food and Drugs Regulation and the Safe Food for Canadians Regulation have been amended.

The changes include:

A separate article will follow regarding the above-noted changes.

Should you have any questions regarding food labelling in Canada, please reach out to any member of Miller Thomson’s Marketing, Advertising and Product Compliance team.


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