Health Canada proposes new food labeling regulations

Health Canada Proposes New Food Labeling Regulations

For the past several years, Health Canada has worked to popularize its Healthy Eating Strategy for Canada initiative, a program intended to promote better nutrition habits and improve access to better foods for underserved populations. Keeping the Canadian public informed of the nutrition facts regarding food and drink stands out as an important part of the agency's efforts, and as such, Health Canada recently announced new labeling rules proposed for inclusion on all packaging for food products sold in Canada.

"New regulations may be coming to Canadian food and drinking packaging."

It remains to be seen whether the new rules will be formally implemented. Nevertheless, food and beverage producers can benefit from taking this time to improve their labeling capabilities with new label printers, so they'll be prepared to properly package products in compliance with Canadian federal law. 

Focusing on the Front

According to a piece in the National Law Review written by Keller and Heckman, the newest regulatory proposals focus on front-of-package labeling: Specifically, food and drink with concentrations of sugar, saturated fats or sodium greater than Health Canada's recommended daily intake of those ingredients must carry a specific label and symbol on the front of the container that details the ingredient considered less than healthy by the agency and its volume.

Any ingredient meeting or exceeding 15 percent of the recommended daily value stipulated by Health Canada is subject to the rules detailed above. The agency drew up four potential symbols for manufacturers to use in these situations. 

Finer Points and Exemptions

Writing for Lexology, the law firm of Blake, Cassels & Graydon noted that if the new rules go through, FOP warning labels must be within the corner furthest to the right of the principal display panel, or in the upper 25 percent in the case of vertical packaging. Yet until April 26, 2018, the Canadian health department plans to accept feedback from those in the food industry on the design of the new symbol, so placement could potentially change as well. 

Labels aren't the only priority of these proposed regulations: Health Canada also wants to consider replacing certain advertising claims like "no added sugar" with "low in sugar," as the latter is more accurate. Claims like "free of sugars" (or trans fats, saturated fatty acids and other ingredients identified as unhealthy in significant amounts) would be changed as well, with precise explanation of the amount per serving – "0 grams sugar," for example.  

Some products will be exempt from the possible rule changes for a variety of reasons. Table salt, for example, would not be specifically labeled for its high sodium content because doing so would be redundant. Dairy items like whole milk and eggs would also be exempt, as Health Canada considers them to be part of a healthy, balanced diet, and sugar, honey and sweetening syrups won't need additional labeling for the same reason as table salt.

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