Food labelling in Canada: New Food Product Innovation initiative changes

July 26, 2022 | Alissa Ricioppo, Jaclyne Reive

On July 6, 2022, the Government of Canada made several changes to the Food and Drugs Regulations (“FDR”) and the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (“SFCR”) (collectively referred to as the “Regulations”). These changes are the result of Canada’s Food Product Innovation initiative, which aims to modernize Canada’s food labelling system.

The regulatory changes incorporate several documents by reference into the Regulations. Incorporation by reference is a drafting technique whereby documents outside the Regulations are considered to become a part of the Regulations because they are mentioned without actually including their contents in the Regulations directly. This will allow the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (“CFIA“) to make updates to these documents as needed without making formal amendments to the Regulations.

The Regulations have undergone amendments in relation to the following topics:

  • Commodity Specific Requirements – True Nature of Food. Some commodity specific requirements set out in the Regulations have been removed and replaced by requirements regarding the “true nature” of foods. If a prepackaged product is likely to be mistaken for another food, words describing the true nature of the product must appear on the principal display panel. For example, this could include its type of liquid packaging medium, its style or form (including firm, extra firm, whole, sliced and so on) and its condition (including dried, concentrated, smoked and so on). The foregoing applies to all prepackaged food. There are certain exceptions to this requirement.
  • Commodity Specific Requirements – Description and Identification. Additionally, the remaining commodity specific requirements have been incorporated by reference via the Descriptive Words, Expressions and Identification Names for Specific Foods. For example, the document indicates that in order to call a product “semi-soft cheese”, its moisture content on a fat-free basis must be more than 62% but not more than 67%. Other topics include ripening of cheese, flesh colour of tuna in hermetically sealed packages, salt content and moisture of prepackaged salted fish and identification names for packaged food in syrup or fruit juice.
  • Ingredient Common Names. A list of mandatory ingredient common names and optional class names which were previously set out in the FDR are now incorporated into the FDR by reference through the Common Names for Ingredients Components. There were no changes to the ingredient common names, but the list of class names for spices, herbs and seasonings ingredients was expanded.
  • Licensing Under the SFCR. Amendments were made to the SCFR to clarify that its licensing provisions do not apply to preparation of food by restaurants and similar enterprises.
  • Standard Container Sizes. Some standard container sizes and net quantity requirements have been removed from the SFCR and the rest were incorporated by reference through the Standard Container Sizes.
  • Test Market Authorizations. The definition “test market food” has been introduced into the SFCR: a food that “was not sold in Canada in its current form and differs substantially from any other food in Canada with respect to its composition, function, condition or packaging form.” This ensures that all applicants for a test market authorization seeking exemption from regulatory requirements to test a new product in Canada are subject to the same criteria. The exemption allows the products to not be compliant with bilingual labelling and certain components of the SFCR.

The CFIA has said that the amendments will provide consumers with clearer information and help align Canada’s labelling requirements with international standards.

Notably, at this time, these amendments do not require manufacturers to make any changes to their food labels and do not introduce changes to how food labels are inspected by the CFIA. However, food manufacturers and importers should review their labels to ensure ongoing compliance, particularly as these documents are updated in future.

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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