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Canada Modernizes Food Labelling Framework And Moves Saturated Fat, Sugars, And Sodium Front And Centre – Healthcare


The federal government has amended the Food and Drug
Regulations
(FDR)1 and the Safe Food for
Canadians Regulations
(SFCR)2 to update the
requirements for labelling prepackaged food products (Modernized
Food Labelling Framework). Health Canada has also amended the
FDR3 to introduce a new requirement for front-of-package
nutrition symbol labelling (FOP Labelling) for select prepackaged
products containing nutrients of public health concern (saturated
fat, sugars and sodium), and to update the requirements for certain
nutrient content claims.

What you need to know

  • Modernized Food Labelling Framework.
    Amendments to the FDR and SFCR introduce updated labelling
    requirements relating to standard container sizes, ingredient
    names, test market foods, and food commodity-specific labelling
    requirements. The amendments to the FDR and SFCR are part of the
    Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s initiative to modernize the
    food labelling framework to reflect current market realities
    including consumer demand and industry practices.

  • New FOP Labelling requirement and other updates for
    prepackaged food products.
    These amendments to the FDR
    introduce a requirement for FOP Labelling for most prepackaged
    products containing nutrients of public health concern (saturated
    fat, sugars and sodium) at or above specified thresholds. The
    change is designed to help consumers identify foods that are high
    in these nutrients and help reduce associated risks from excess
    consumption. The amendments to the FDR also update requirements for
    nutrient content claims, vitamin D fortification, and labelling of
    high-intensity sweeteners, and reflect the prohibition of partially
    hydrogenated oils (PHOs).

  • In force dates. The amendments introducing the
    Modernized Food Labelling Framework came into force on June 21,
    2022. The amendments introducing FOP Labelling and related
    amendments to the FDR came into force on July 20, 2022, with a
    transition period that ends on December 31, 2025.

Changes introduced by the Modernized Food Labelling
Framework

Repeal of standard container size requirements

Prescribed standard container sizes for a number of prepackaged
food products (e.g., certain fresh fruits and vegetables) have been
repealed from the SFCR, and the remaining list of sizes has been
incorporated by reference in the standard container sizes document.

Increased flexibility for ingredient names

The list of mandatory and optional common names (which the FDR
previously required or permitted for identifying certain foods and
classes of foods, e.g., “vegetable oil” and
“seasonings”) was repealed from the FDR and incorporated
by reference in the common names for ingredients and components
document
. Consequential amendments were also made to the
Cannabis Regulations4 to reflect these
amendments. These amendments were made in response to consumer and
industry concerns regarding the clarity and flexibility of common
names, and to increase regulatory alignment with major trading
partners to expand market access5.

“Test market foods” defined

A definition for “test market food” was added to the
SFCR to clarify the intent of a Test Market Authorization (TMA), by
limiting the application of TMAs to foods that were not previously
sold in Canada in the current form and that differ substantially
from any other food sold in Canada with respect to composition,
function, condition or packaging form. The amendment is intended to
limit food businesses from seeking TMAs as a means to obtain
exemptions from regulatory requirements for food products, such as
standard container sizes6. Existing TMAs will continue
to apply until their expiry date.

SFCR and FDR commodity-specific labelling requirements
streamlined

Several food commodity-specific labelling requirements were
streamlined by either repealing the commodity-specific labelling
requirement or introducing a single requirement that applies to all
prepackaged food products. For example, several previously existing
labelling requirements were replaced by a new provision in the FDR
that requires the packaging of certain foods to include words that
distinguish them from other similar foods (e.g., distinguishing
tuna packed “in brine” from tuna packed “in
oil”).

Additionally, certain food descriptors in the SFCR (such as
“soft”, “semi-soft”, “firm”, and
“ripened” for cheese) are now incorporated by reference
in the descriptive words, expressions and identification
names document
instead of in the SFCR itself. Other food
commodity-specific labelling requirements were not affected by the
amendments (e.g., those required for health and safety reasons, to
protect consumers from false and misleading information, or for
trade reasons).

SFCR licensing requirements clarified

Amendments to the SFCR were made to clarify that restaurants and
other similar enterprises with cross-provincial border operations
are not subject to the SFCR licensing requirements.

Implementation

Amendments to the FDR and SFCR came into force on June 21, 2022.
There is no transition period for implementation of these
amendments, with the exception that foods that are currently being
sold under a TMA may continue to be sold until the expiry of the
TMA.

Changes introduced by the new FOP Labelling requirements and
other labelling changes

New FOP Labelling requirements

The new FOP Labelling requires that a nutrition symbol be
displayed on the front of packaging of a prepackaged food product
that contains or exceeds a certain threshold of saturated fat,
sugars or sodium. The amendments to the FDR have introduced
prescribed requirements for the placement and format of the FOP
Labelling. One example of such a format is set out below.

1226090a.jpg

Parallel to the amendments to the FDR, Health Canada published a
guide on front-of-package nutrition symbol
labelling
7 that is intended to assist stakeholders
in the food industry understand the core requirements of the FOP
Labelling.

Certain foods or types of foods are exempted or prohibited from
the FOP Labelling requirement. The amendments to the FDR also
introduced restrictions on nutrient content and health-related
claims when the label of a prepackaged food product contains FOP
Labelling. For example, an “unsweetened” claim is
prohibited on the principal display panel of a prepackaged food
product when a product contains FOP Labelling for “high in
sugars”. Additionally, it is prohibited to use representations
on packaging that are likely to be mistaken for FOP Labelling, or
to advertise or sell such products.

Updates to nutrient content claims

The table of nutrient content claims (which prescribed nutrient
content claims such as “low in sodium” and “no added
sugar” and provided the conditions for use of such claims) was
repealed. In its place, nutrient content claim requirements were
incorporated by reference via a new table of permitted nutrient content statements and
claims
, to permit these claims to be more easily updated in
response to new evidence and related nutrition labelling
policies8. In parallel, Health Canada published a notice of modification outlining changes to
the conditions for certain nutrient content claims and the
introduction of a new “low in sugars” nutrient content
claim9.

The FDR were also further amended to permit representations
regarding alcoholic content for beverages with less than 0.5%
alcohol and to update references to food “intended solely for
children under two years of age” to reflect new age
categories.

Other changes for prepackaged foods

Other changes introduced by the amendments to the FDR include
the following:

  • increasing the amount of vitamin D required in cow’s milk
    and margarine, and permitted in goat’s milk;

  • modifying the formatting and placement requirements for
    aspartame declarations for products containing aspartame;

  • repealing certain high-intensity sweetener labelling
    requirements10; and

  • removing references in the FDR to PHOs due to Health
    Canada’s previous decision to prohibit their use in foods via
    the list of contaminants and other adulterating
    substances in foods
    .

Transition and implementation

The FOP Labelling requirements, updates to nutrient content
claims and other changes for prepackaged foods discussed above came
into force on July 20, 2022. However, manufacturers will have a
transition period ending December 31, 2025 to comply with new
requirements. Products imported, manufactured in Canada or packaged
at retail before this transition period ends can remain in the
warehouse and continue to be sold in stores11.

This bulletin was written with assistance from Luke Jeagal
and Nushrah Amod.

FOOTNOTES

1. Regulations Amending the Food and Drug
Regulations
, SOR/2022-143, available online at: https://gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2022/2022-07-06/html/sor-dors143-eng.html.

2. Regulations Amending the Safe Food for Canadians
Regulations
, SOR/2022-144, available online at: https://www.gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2022/2022-07-06/html/sor-dors144-eng.html.

3. Regulations Amending the Food and Drug Regulations
(Nutrition Symbols, Other Labelling Provisions, Vitamin D and
Hydrogenated Fats or Oils)
, SOR/2022-168, available online at:
https://canadagazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2022/2022-07-20/html/sor-dors168-eng.html.

4. Regulations Amending the Cannabis Regulations
(Listing Ingredients for Edible Cannabis)
, SOR/2022-145,
available online at: https://www.gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2022/2022-07-06/html/sor-dors145-eng.html.

5. Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement, Regulations
Amending the Food and Drug Regulations
, SOR/2022-143 (6 July
2022) C Gaz II, vol 156, no 14, online: https://gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2022/2022-07-06/html/sor-dors143-eng.html.

6. Ibid.

7. Guidance document: Front-of-package nutrition symbol
labelling guide for industry, available online at: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/legislation-guidelines/guidance-documents/front-package-nutrition-symbol-labelling-industry.html.

8. Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement, Regulations
Amending the Food and Drug Regulations (Nutrition Symbols, Other
Labelling Provisions, Vitamin D and Hydrogenated Fats or
Oils)
, SOR/2022-168 (20 July 2022) C Gaz II, vol 156, no 15,
online: https://canadagazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2022/2022-07-20/html/sor-dors168-eng.html.

9. Notice of modification: Incorporating by reference the
“Nutrition labelling – Table of permitted nutrient
content statements and claims”, available online at: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/public-involvement-partnerships/modification-table-permitted-nutrient-content-statements-claims/information-document.html.

10. The high-intensity sweetener labelling requirements
relate to additional, non-health based, principal display panel and
quantitative declaration labelling requirements for foods
containing aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame-potassium and
neotame.

11. The transition period does not apply to the
amendments that repeal certain high-intensity sweetener labelling
requirements and remove references in the FDR to PHOs.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.



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