Time to Change Food Labels

On December 14, the Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, announced amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations regarding the nutrition facts table and list of ingredients on packaged foods.  As discussed in our October 2016 blog post, the amendments are part of the Government of Canada’s Vision for a Healthy Canada initiative.

The proposed Regulatory amendments can be found at: http://www.gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2016/2016-12-14/html/sor-dors305-eng.php. Some of the noteworthy changes are outlined below.

Changes to Nutrition Facts Table

Proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts table include:

  • Requiring that single serving packages containing up to 200% of the reference amount use the amount in the whole container as the serving size;
  • Requiring that multi-serve packages use the amount as close as possible to the food’s reference amount, such that before listing the metric equivalent in grams (g) or millilitres (ml):
    • Yogurt and other foods that can be measured use a cup, teaspoon, tablespoon or other common household measurement;
    • Crackers and other foods that come in pieces use the number of pieces or a fraction of the food;
    • Sliced bread and other foods that are typically eaten use serving sizes that reflect the way they are typically consumed;
  • Increasing the font size of the serving size and calories and adding a bold line under the calories to make the information easier to locate;
  • Revising the percentage of daily values to reflect updated science;
  • Adding a percentage daily value for total sugars;
  • Adding potassium to the list of nutrients;
  • Removing vitamin A and vitamin C from the list of nutrients;
  • Adding the amounts of potassium, calcium and iron in milligrams (mg); and
  • Adding a footnote about the percentage of daily value, specifying that 5% or less of a daily value is a little and 15% or more of a daily value is a lot.

Changes to Ingredients List

The amendments also provide for changes to the list of ingredients on packaged foods, including requiring:

  • Bracketing and grouping sugar-based ingredients after “sugar” to help consumers identify the sources of sugars added to a food;
  • Specifying food colours’ individual common names, rather than using the generic term “colour”;
  • Complying with the minimum type height, text font colour (black) and background colour (white or neutral) requirements; and
  • Separating ingredients with bullets or commas.

Implementation

The amendments are in force as of December 14, 2016. The food colour amendment is effective immediately. However, the food industry has until December 14, 2021 to become fully compliant with the other amendments. During this transition period, packaged products must either fully comply with the former Food and Drug Regulations or the amendments. Partial compliance with both versions of the regulations is prohibited.

Health Canada may propose additional amendments after concluding two additional consultations regarding the Healthy Eating Strategy on January 13 regarding proposals to:

We will continue to monitor the progress of the various aspects of the Healthy Eating Strategy as they are announced and implemented.

This article was written with the helpful contribution of Patricia Wood (Articling Student).