Canadian Food Label Regulations: How to Comply with CFIA Requirements?

  • By: Staff Editor
  • Date: May 18, 2017
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Canadian Food Label Regulations: How to Comply with CFIA Requirements?

The central responsibility to set the standards for Canadian food label is shared among two departments, Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). While Health Canada is responsible for developing the policies and standards related to the health, safety, and nutritional quality of foods, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) holds the accountability for the administration of food labeling policies related to misrepresentation and fraud.

The key food labeling acts and regulations administered by the CFIA are: Food and Drugs Act (FDA), Consumer Packaging and Labeling Act (CPLA), Canada Agricultural Products Act (CAPA), Meat Ingredients Act (MIA), Fish Inspection Act (FIA), the Competition Act and the Trade-marks Act.

Related Training:

Canadian Food Labeling and Advertising Requirements

Core Food Labeling Requirements

The food label is one of the significant ways of conveying product information to the consumers, allowing them to make informed purchasing choices. The core labeling requirements for the Canadian food label are:

  • Bilingual Labeling: The mandatory information, such as common name, must be shown in both official languages, i.e., French and English. However there are exceptions to the rule where labels can be stated in one official language. For example shipping containers, specialty foods and local foods are exempted from bilingual labeling.
  • Common Name: In line with the FDA and CLPA, a common name must be shown on the main display panel of a food label. Exemptions include fresh fruits or vegetables that are packaged in such a way that they are visible and recognizable in the package.
  • Country of Origin: It has to be indicated on the label of certain food products to comply with Canadian labeling requirements.
  • Identity and place of business of the person who has manufactured or produced the food for sale or resale has to be declared on a label of all prepackaged foods. Fresh fruit or vegetables that are prepackaged on retail locations and visibly recognizable in their packaging are exempted. Some of the key considerations a company should take into account when declaring the identity and place of business on the label include: what to do when a company changes address, when a company is sold, when a brand name is sold, when a company is going out of business, when a company has gone out of business, and when products are already sold to distributors or retailers with old labels
  • Irradiated Foods: The labelling regulations require the identification of irradiated foods on the labels of prepackaged products with both written statement and the international symbol.
  • Legibility and Location: The important information required to appear on a food label must be: clearly and prominently presented on the label; and readily visible to the purchaser or consumer under the customary conditions of purchase and use. FDR prescribes specific format (graphic) and technical requirements including type height for the Nutrition Facts table.
  • List of Ingredients: All prepackaged foods with more than one ingredient must proclaim their ingredients and components in a list of ingredients unless they are exempted. Ingredients must be stated by their common names in descending order of proportion by weight.
  • Net Quantity: It must be declared on the principal display panel in metric units and should be in both English and French. The net quantity must be specified: by volume for fluids (milliliters /liters); by weight for solids (grams/kilograms); and by count for certain foods, such as candied apples.
  • Nutrition Labels: Nutrition Facts Table (NFT) is essential for most prepackaged foods and is required to be presented in a specific manner when it appears on a food label. There are definite rules governing the values declared in the NFT. Manufacturers must check with the CFIA guidance document to determine which rules are applicable to the products produced.
  • Sweeteners: The only sweeteners that are acceptable for use in Canada are the ones written in the ‘List of Permitted Sweeteners’, published on the Department of Health website. They must be used in accordance with the permitted foods, maximum levels of use, and other conditions outlined in the website.
  • Food Additives: Food additives must be stated by an acceptable common name in the list of ingredients of a prepackaged product.
  • Fortification: Food and Drugs Regulations (FDR) establishes the structure for fortification of foods, including which foods are required or permitted to be fortified, and the applicable conditions.
  • Grades: Depending on the food commodity, grades are either obligatory or may be used on a voluntary basis. In each of the case, whenever a grade name is used, the food commodity must meet the grade requirements.

The Canadian government also issues several food-specific labeling requirements based on the food category manufactured. These labeling requirements may differ or exceed the minimum mandatory requirements found on non-specific food labels and cover a wide variety of food categories.

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