Overview of the proposed regulatory changes for the Food Labelling Modernization initiative

The Government of Canada has published proposed regulatory changes as part of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's Food Labelling Modernization (FLM) initiative.

Here is an overview of the key proposed changes, grouped by their proposed transition periods.

Summer 2020 (TBC) – Upon registration of the regulatory changes in the Canada Gazette, Part II – elements that do not require a label change

December 2022 (TBC) – 2 years after registration

December 2026 (TBC) – 6 years after registration

More information

Standard container sizes

Helps consumers compare similar products and standardizes the manufacturing process for some products

Current requirement

Required for certain foods, such as honey, processed meats, fresh and processed fruits and vegetables

Example: Frozen spinach and prepackaged bacon must be sold in certain sizes

Proposed change

Remove the requirement for standard weight and container sizes for a number of products and incorporate by reference the rest

Example: Remove required frozen spinach sizes and incorporate by reference prepackaged bacon sizes

Rationale for change

Creates flexibility to allow industry to introduce new and innovative products

Provides more options for consumers

Class names (incorporation by reference)

Group names for similar ingredients, such as "vegetable oil," flavour" or "milk ingredients"

Current requirement

More than 45 class names

Specific class names are required to identify certain food ingredients and components

Some are outdated

Proposed change

Incorporate by reference the list of mandatory and optional class names to facilitate alignment with international standards

Rationale for change

Facilitates alignment with international standards and key trading partners

Facilitates changing requirement quickly in the future to meet stakeholder needs and support innovation

Streamline commodity specific labelling (where no label change is required)

Some food commodities have specific labelling requirements

Current requirement

Many are very prescriptive and outdated

Sometimes limits flexibility on which terms can be used on labels

Example: Jam must be labelled "contains pectin" on the main panel

Proposed change

Streamline requirements to remove duplication and burden for industry

Incorporate by reference a list of food descriptors (for example soft, semi-soft, firm, ripened terms for cheese)

Example: Repeal the requirement to declare "contains pectin" on the main panel of jam. Industry can choose to declare voluntarily or not at all

Rationale for change

Repeals outdated requirements to increase flexibility and achieve a more outcome based approach

No changes where labelling is required for health, safety, consumer protection or trade.

Define "Test market food"

A test market authorization (TMA) gives a short-term exemption from regulatory requirements to allow a company to test a new product on the market

Current requirement

Inconsistent TMA processes and criteria across food types

Proposed change

Consistent process and criteria for all foods, including a definition of "test market food" to clarify its intended purpose, such as to test viability of new foods on the Canadian market

Rationale for change

Creates market fairness by improving consistency

Date marking

Provides consumers with the length of time the quality of the food product will be maintained under certain conditions

Current requirement

Applies to foods with durable life of 90 days or less

Limited format options

Format may be confusing since the year is not included

Example: Best before / meuilleur avant JA 11

Proposed change

Apply to all foods (with some exceptions)

Flexible format options

Increase alignment with international standards (when to use "expiration date" versus "best before," and include day, month and year)

List of foods not requiring best before date would be incorporated by reference

Example: Best before 2020 JA 11 or Best before 20-01-11 YY-MM-DD

Rationale for change

Enhances consumers understanding of dates on labels

Provides more flexibility for industry

Increases alignment with international standard and key trading partners

Food company information

Provides consumers with information to contact the food company

Current requirement

Company name and address must be declared on the label: company name, city and province or city and country

Example: XYZ Company, Toronto, ON

Proposed change

In addition to current requirement, label would include a method of communication such as phone number, email or website address

Example: XYZ Company, Toronto, ON XYZCo@website.com

Rationale for change

Allows direct communications between the consumer and food company

Enables consumers to get more information

Foreign country or state of origin of imported food

States where a wholly imported food is from

Current requirement

Only some types of imported food must declare the country or state of origin on the label (such as meat, dairy, and fish products) while other foods can use "imported by" or "imported for" along with the Canadian dealer name and address

Example: Imported by ABC Company

Proposed change

Require an indication of the country or state of origin for all wholly imported foods

Increase alignment with the international standard to indicate the country where the food was last substantially transformed (manufactured, processed, treated or preserved)

Example: Imported from Chile

Rationale for change

Creates consistency across foods

Informs consumers where imported food is coming from

Streamline commodity specific labelling (where label change may be required)

Current requirement

No overall requirement about how to describe a food, but many commodity specific prescriptive requirements

Example: water that is carbonated must declare "carbonated" and may not declare "sparkling"

Proposed change

Introduce outcome-based requirement to describe the true nature of the food, and eliminate many commodity specific requirements

Example: "carbonated" wording no longer prescribed, but companies would still be required to accurately describe the food and choose how to do it

Rationale for change

Provides additional flexibility to industry, consistency across foods, outcome based

Legibility and location

Location, size, style, type size, colour of label information

Current requirement

Inconsistent requirements for type size and placement of text across food types

Example: The common name "Frozen Dessert" can be in type size of just 1.6 mm on a large package

Proposed change

Create consistent text requirements for all foods and adequate contrast for other information on the label

Example: The common name "Frozen Dessert" must be in type size proportional to package size

Rationale for change

Improves legibility of information on food label for consumers

Provides consistency to where certain information should be placed on food label

Characterizing ingredients

Emphasis placed on specific ingredients through the product name, ingredient claims or pictures

Current requirement

Claims or pictures emphasizing the presence of key ingredients can mislead consumers as to the actual quantities and make it hard to compare similar products

Example: A pie that claims to be made with real peaches

Proposed change

Declare percentage of characterizing ingredients on the label

Clearly indicate the food is "flavoured" when an ingredient is referred to on the label but is not added at all or is added in flavouring amounts, for example "strawberry flavoured ice cream"

Example: "Made with real peaches" in mixed fruit pie, 15% peaches shows in ingredient list

Rationale for change

Allows consumers to make more informed decisions by allowing them to compare products and prevents them from being misled

Increases alignment with international standard and trading partners

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