Labelling Requirements for Dairy Products

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Important Notice

On December 14, 2016, amendments to nutrition labelling, list of ingredients and food colour requirements of the Food and Drug Regulations came into force. Regulated parties have a five (5) year transition period to meet the new labelling requirements.

Consult the Former – Labelling Requirements for Dairy Products for information on the former requirements.

On this page

Overview

Dairy products are foods produced from the milk of mammals and include those covered by a food standard in the Dairy Products Regulations (DPR) or the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR). Examples of dairy products include milk, butter, ice cream and cheese.

The labelling requirements of the Dairy Products Regulations that are summarized in this document apply to dairy products produced in federally registered establishments, as well as to imported dairy products. When sold in Canada, these dairy products are also subject to the labelling requirements under the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act (CPLA).

Other dairy products such as those destined for intraprovincial trade are subject to the labelling requirements under the Food and Drugs Act and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act. These are summarized in the core labelling, claims and statements, and food-specific labelling requirements pages of the Industry Labelling Tool. Provincial regulations may also apply to products sold within that province.

The labelling requirements detailed in the following sections are specific to dairy products. They are in addition to the core labelling and voluntary claims and statements requirements that apply to all prepackaged foods.

Note that under the Dairy Products Regulations, prepackaged dairy product refers to dairy products that are packaged for sale to consumers, whereas dairy products packed in bulk are packaged but not sold directly to consumers.

Exemptions

Prepackaged individual portions of dairy products that are for sale from automatic vending machines or mobile canteens, or that are served by a restaurant or other commercial enterprise with meals or snacks, are exempt from the labelling requirements prescribed in sections 19 and 68 of the DPR. The requirements of these sections include, for example, the declaration of "Product of" with the country of origin for imported dairy products and the declaration of a batch or lot code [19(4), 68(4), DPR].

Common Name – Dairy Products

The common name must be declared on the principal display panel (definition) of prepackaged dairy products for the consumer and dairy products packed in bulk [19(1)(a), 20(1)(a), DPR]. For more details, refer to Common Name.

Milk, unless otherwise designated, refers to cow's milk [B.08.003, FDR]. Dairy products made with milk from an animal other than a cow must clearly indicate the source of the milk in the common name or elsewhere on the principal display panel [19(1)(g),68(1)(d), DPR; B.08.028.1, FDR].

Common names for standardized dairy products are shown in bold-faced type in Division 8 of the FDR or in the DPR. As with all foods with a standard of identity, only those foods that meet all the provisions set out in the standard can use the prescribed common name. For dairy products that do not fall under a standard, the appropriate common name is the name by which the food is generally known.

A dairy product that deviates from a prescribed standard may not use the common name associated with that standard unless the standardized common name is modified to indicate how the food differs in every respect, from the food described by the standard. For more information, see Modified Standardized Common Names.

Example:

The standard for sour cream does not allow for added herbs, seasonings or spices. If chives are added to the sour cream the common name would need to be modified to clearly indicate to consumers how this product differs from the standard, e.g. sour cream with chives.

Common Names for Lactose-Free Dairy Products

The food enzyme lactase is added to some dairy products to eliminate the presence of lactose. Some dairy product standards allow for the addition of lactase as a food additive, whereas others do not. See Health Canada's lists of permitted food enzymes for more information on permitted uses of lactase.

Dairy products with a standard that does not allow the addition of lactase

The addition of lactase to these products will cause the food to deviate from the standard. If this is done, the common name must reflect the deviation. For example, the standard for milk does not allow for the addition of lactase. Therefore, if lactase is added to milk, the common name must be modified to indicate how the milk does not meet the "milk" standard, such as "lactose-free milk".

Dairy products with a standard that allows the addition of lactase

The addition of lactase to these products is within the provisions of the standard. Therefore, in this case, the common name can either be the standardized common name, or additional information can be added to reflect the addition. For example, the standard for ice cream mixes allows for the addition of lactase to the milk used in ice cream mixes. Therefore, if lactase is added to the milk used for an ice cream mix, the final product can either be called "ice cream" or "lactose-free ice cream".

For more information on Lactose-Free Claims, refer to Negative Claims Pertaining to the Absence or Non-Addition of a Substance.

Additional Terms

In some cases there are additional terms that must be included on the principal display panel (PDP) of dairy products [19(1), 20(1), DPR].

The table below provides a list of these terms, and when and where the terms are required.
TermWhen requiredLocation
Whipped Butter and butter products where air or inert gas has been uniformly incorporated as a result of whipping
[19.(1)(j.1), DPR]
PDP, preceding the common name
Cultured Butter and butter products where they have been produced from cream that a permitted bacterial culture was added
[19.(1)(j), DPR]
PDP, preceding the common name
Unsalted Unsalted butter and butter products other than cultured butter and butter products
[19.(1)(i), DPR]
PDP, close proximity to the common name
Salted Salted cultured butter and butter products
[19.(1)(i), DPR]
PDP, close proximity to the common name
Pasteurized Bulk cheese still in their original shape and made from pasteurized milk
[20.(1)(i) & 71.(2)(g), DPR]
PDP, unless it is indicated in the list of ingredients
Churn number
(or the abbreviation "ch. no."), followed by a specific number
Butter and butter products packed in bulk
[20.(1)(e) & 71.(2)(c), DPR]
PDP
Vat number Cheese packed in bulk
[20.(1)(f) & 71.(2)(d), DPR]
PDP
Aged Cheddar cheese that meets the requirements as set out in Section 6.(3)(d) of the DPR Period of time it was aged is specified on the PDP
Smoked Prepackaged cheese or prepackaged cheese product when wood smoke is used
[69, DPR]
PDP
Low Heat (or Low Temperature)
And
High Heat (or High Temperature)
Skim milk powder packed in bulk having a whey protein nitrogen content as per Section 20.(1)(m) of the DPR PDP

Firmness and Ripening Descriptions for Prepackaged Varietal Cheeses

There may be additional labelling requirements for prepackaged cheese (except cottage cheese and those listed in the table to section 28 of the DPR), with respect to the relative firmness and ripening characteristics of the particular varietal cheese. For example, "soft cheese" must be identified on the principal display panel of a cheese having a moisture on fat-free basis content of more than 67% and less than 80% or "ripened" in the case of a prepackaged cheese when the ripening process develops within the whole body of the cheese.

Further details on these requirements and other terms can be found in Section 70 of the DPR.

List of Ingredients – Dairy Products

The same list of ingredients requirements and exemptions that apply to all foods also apply to dairy products. For example, prepackaged individual portions of dairy products that are served by a restaurant or other commercial enterprise with meals or snacks (e.g. single portions of butter) are exempt from the ingredient list requirement. See Prepackaged Products that Do Not Require a List of Ingredients for more details.

Ingredients must be declared by an appropriate common name in the list of ingredients. Dairy ingredient common names include the appropriate standardized or unstandardized common names, as well as the collective/class names "milk ingredients" or "modified milk ingredients". Refer to Collective/Class Names for Ingredients and Components under Common Names in List of Ingredients page for more information

MicroGARD Ingredient

MicroGARD is an ingredient produced from the fermentation of either dextrose or skim milk with a standard dairy culture. When MicroGARD is added as an ingredient to a food, the common names "cultured skim milk", "fermented skim milk", "cultured dextrose" or "fermented dextrose", as applicable, must be declared in the list of ingredients of the final food along with the ingredient's components. The word "product" may also form part of the common name in the list of ingredients but it is not required, e.g., "cultured skim milk product".

Cultured skim milk should not be included in the class name "modified milk ingredients" provided for by section B.01.010(3)(b), Items 7.1 and 7.2. Additionally, cultured dextrose and cultured skim milk are not considered food additives.

Cultured dextrose and cultured skim milk are mixtures of propionic, butyric and lactic acids and peptides that act as shelf extenders or preservatives. Therefore, it is not acceptable to claim that the final food does not contain preservatives or is not preserved.

Net Quantity – Dairy Products

Prepackaged dairy products for the consumer must be labelled with a declaration of net contents in metric units on the principal display panel. In addition, the DPR requires dairy products packed in bulk to be labelled with a declaration of net contents in metric units. [20(1)(g), DPR]

For additional details, refer to Net Quantity.

Identity and Principal Place of Business – Dairy Products

The FDR and Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations (CPLR) require all prepackaged foods to carry a declaration of the Identity and Principal Place of Business of the responsible party on the label. This requirement in FDR applies equally to prepackaged foods packaged from bulk.

Country of Origin – Dairy Products

Imported dairy products, whether prepackaged for the consumer or packed in bulk, must declare the words "Product of", followed by the name of the country of origin, on any label surface except the bottom. [19 (2)(c), 20(2)(c), DPR].

In addition, cheddar cheese that is prepackaged in Canada from imported bulk is required to declare the words "Product of", followed by the name of the country of origin, on the principal display panel [19 (1)(k), 68(2)(c), DPR].

Dairy products that are packed for export, whether prepackaged for the consumer or packed in bulk, must be labelled, on any surface except for the bottom, with "Product of Canada" [19(2)(d), 20(2)(d), 68(2)(d), DPR].

For additional details, refer to Country of Origin.

Percent (%) Milk Fat and Moisture Declarations

Milk Fat

The percentage of milk fat followed by the words "milk fat" or the abbreviations "B.F" or "M.F." must be shown on the principal display panel (definition) of certain dairy products when prepackaged for the consumer. The Percent (%) Milk Fat and Moisture Declarations table below outlines which dairy products are required to carry the percent milk fat declaration.

Certain dairy products packed in bulk are also required to declare the percentage of milk fat, as outlined in paragraph 20(1)(k) of the DPR and section B.08.074 of the FDR.

Moisture

In addition to percent milk fat, certain dairy products, when prepackaged for the consumer, must also declare the percentage of moisture in the food on the principal display panel followed by the words "moisture" or "water" (e.g. "31% M.F. and 39% Moisture"). The Percent (%) Milk Fat and Moisture Declarations table below outlines which dairy products are required to carry the percent moisture declaration.

Table: Percent (%) Milk Fat and Moisture Declarations

Percent (%) Milk Fat and Moisture Table
Dairy Product % Milk Fat or Moisture Declaration References (DPR & FDR)
(Naming the variety) cheese Both 68(1)(b), DPR
B.08.032(1)(a), FDR
Calorie-reduced butter Milk Fat 19(1)(e), DPR
Cheddar cheese Both 19(1)(d), DPR 
B.08.032(1)(b), FDR
Cheese curd Both 68(1)(b), DPR
Cold-pack (naming the variety) cheese Both B.08.032(1)(o), FDR
Cold-pack (naming the variety) cheese with (naming the added ingredients) Both B.08.032(1)(p), FDR
Cold-pack cheese food Both B.08.032(1)(q), FDR
Cold-pack cheese food with (naming the added ingredients) Both B.08.032(1)(r), FDR
Concentrated partly-skimmed milk Milk Fat 68(1)(c), DPR
Cottage cheese Milk Fat 68(1)(c), DPR
B.08.074(1)(b), FDR
Cream cheese Both B.08.032(1)(c), FDR
Cream cheese with (naming the added ingredients) Both B.08.032(1)(f), FDR
Cream cheese spread Both B.08.032(1)(g), FDR
Cream cheese spread with (naming the added ingredients) Both B.08.032(1)(h), FDR
Creamed cottage cheese Milk Fat 68(1)(c), DPR
B.08.074(1)(c), FDR
Dairy spread Milk Fat 19(1)(e), DPR
Evaporated partly-skimmed milk Milk Fat 68(1)(c), DPR
Partly-skimmed milk powder Milk Fat 19(1)(e), DPR
Processed (naming the variety) cheese Both B.08.032(1)(i), FDR
Processed (naming the variety) cheese with (naming the added ingredients) Both B.08.032(1)(j), FDR
Processed cheese food Both B.08.032(1)(k), FDR
Processed cheese food with (naming the added ingredients) Both B.08.032(1)(l), FDR
Processed cheese spread Both B.08.032(1)(m), FDR
Processed cheese spread with (naming the added ingredients) Both B.08.032(1)(n), FDR
Sterilized cream Milk Fat 68(1)(c), DPR
Whey cheese Both 68(1)(b), DPR
B.08.032(1)(d), FDR
(Naming the variety) whey cheese Both 68(1)(b), DPR
B.08.032(1)(e), FDR
Yogurt Milk Fat B.08.074(1)(a), FDR

Durable Life Date and Storage Instructions

Dairy products with a durable life of 90 days or less are subject to the same date marking and storage instructions requirements as other foods [19(2)(b), 20(2)(b), DPR]. For more information, see Date Markings.

Nutrition Labelling – Dairy Products

The same nutrition labelling requirements and exemptions that apply to all foods also apply to dairy products. For example, prepackaged individual portions of dairy products that are served by a restaurant or other commercial enterprise with meals or snacks (e.g. portions of butter) are exempt from declaring a Nutrition Facts table on the label. See Nutrition Labelling Exemptions for more details.

Some milk products sold in refillable glass containers are always exempt from carrying a Nutrition Facts table. Please refer to the appropriate section for further information.

Serving Size

The serving size is based on the edible portion of the food as sold and is closely aligned with the regulated reference amount. The Table of Reference Amounts for Food provides reference amounts for a variety of categories of food, including "Dairy Products and Substitutes". It also gives instructions on how to determine and express the serving size in the Nutrition Facts table for multiple-serving prepackaged products.

Examples of serving sizes are explained below:

Wedge or piece of cheese: The reference amount for cheese, including cream cheese and cheese spread, except those listed as a separate item in column 1 of the Table of Reference Amounts for Food, is 30 g. The serving size is expressed by first declaring the household measure [dimensions of the piece of cheese (# cm cube or # cm slice) that is closest in weight in grams to the 30 gram reference amount], followed by the metric measure (which corresponds to the 30 gram reference amount) [e.g., "Per 3 cm cube (30 g)" or "Per 1.5 cm slice (30 g)"] [Item D.1, Dairy Products and Substitutes, Table of Reference Amounts for Food].

Soft spreadable cheese: ┬áThe reference amount for soft spreadable cheese is also 30 g. The serving size is expressed by first declaring the household measure (number of tablespoons that is closest in weight in grams to the 30 gram reference amount), followed by the.g., "Per 2 tbsp (30 g)"] [Item D.1, Dairy Products and Substitutes, Table of Reference Amounts for Food].

Refer to Serving Size for more information.

Grade Designation

Grades are voluntary and permitted for butter and butter products, cheddar cheese and dry milk products, provided they meet relevant standards as per section 6 of the DPR, and other requirements, including sections 12, 13.(1) and 14.(1) respectively.

In addition, a dairy product can only be graded if it was prepared in a registered establishment that at the time of the preparation met the requirements of sections 11 and 11.1 of the DPR. [7, DPR]

Registration Number

The establishment's registration number, shown within an eight sided frame as illustrated in Schedule V of the DPR, is required on the principal display surface of all domestic dairy products packed in bulk [20.(1)(d) & 71.(2)(b), DPR].

In cases where the identity and principal place of business shown on the label is not the actual establishment product was prepared, prepackaged dairy products for the consumer are required to declare the registration number of the establishment where the product was prepared, on any surface of the label. The registration number must be shown within the eight sided frame in the proportions illustrated in Schedule V of the DPR, or preceded by the words "Registration Number" or the abbreviation "Reg. No." or "Reg." [19.(3)(a), DPR].

Batch/lot Code

The label of a prepackaged dairy product for the consumer must include a batch, code or lot number to identify a specific lot of production for that product. This may be on any surface of the container [19.(3)(b), 68.(3)(b), DPR].

Please note that recommendations have been made regarding the use of potentially misleading lot codes. For additional information, please refer to the Lot Code section under Manner of Declaring on the Date Markings and Storage Instructions page.

Manufacturing Process

Dry milk products other than edible casein, both when prepackaged for the consumer or packed in bulk, must be labelled with the process of manufacture in close proximity to the common name [19(1)(b), 20(1)(c), DPR].

Voluntary Claims & Statements

Highlighting Dairy Ingredients in Other Foods

The Highlighted Ingredients Claims section provides information that also applies to highlighting the presence of a dairy ingredient, either within the common name of a food or as a separate claim.

When a food includes a dairy flavour and not the actual dairy ingredient, such as cheddar cheese flavour, this must be made clear using words such as "flavour" or "artificial flavour" that accompany the flavour designation.

Care must be exercised in the use of the words "butter" and "cream" in the name of a food or in descriptions relating to that food. For more information on this subject, refer to Descriptions with Characterizing Ingredients.

Use of the Term "Milk"

The term "milk" cannot be used generically to describe all types of fluid milk in all labelling situations.

In order to meet the common name requirement, the term "milk" is a reference only to "milk" as standardized in section B.08.003 of the FDR. For other types of milk, the prescribed common names as shown in bold face type in Division 8 of the FDR must be used. Likewise, in the list of ingredients, either the prescribed common names from Division 8 must be used, or the term "milk ingredients" may be used as per section B.01.010(3)(b), Item 7.

Reference to the term "milk" is considered to mean milk in the generic sense when Regulations refer to formulations designed for mixing with milk, e.g., under D.03.002 of the FDR. These formulations may be mixed with any "milk" (e.g., skim milk, partly skimmed milk, whole milk, either reconstituted or fresh, etc.).

The directions for use or any other similar references found on labels or in advertisements should state the exact type of milk which is to be used (e.g. "Made with partly skimmed milk").

Declaration of the percentage milk fat of milk used as an ingredient is considered a non-permitted nutrient content claim. It is only permitted when used in conjunction with a permitted nutrient content claim.

For example:

"Made with 1% partly skimmed milk" – Not allowed
"Low in fat. Made with 1% partly skimmed milk." – Allowed as it is accompanied by a permitted nutrient content claim.

"100% Canadian Milk", "Made with 100% Canadian Milk" and "100% Canadian dairy" claims

The voluntary use of a "100% Canadian Milk" claim (or similar) on dairy products must be truthful and not misleading. For more information, see Guidelines for the Acceptable Use of "100% Canadian Milk" Claims on Dairy Products.

Probiotic Claims – Dairy

Some dairy products may have non-strain specific claims stating the nature of probiotics present. See Probiotic Claims for more information.

Comparative Claims – Dairy

Cream cheese is not included in the milk products and alternatives group because of its low calcium and high fat content. Therefore, a comparative claim between cream cheese and a milk product is not permitted. Cream cheese falls within the category of "other foods" B.01.500(1)(a) foods that are mostly fats, and may only be compared to similar reference foods or reference foods of the same food group. See Comparative Nutrient Content Claims for more information.

"Made from Raw or Unpasteurized Milk" Labelling on Cheese

Health Canada has provided Voluntary Guidance on Improving the Safety of Soft and Semi-Soft Cheese made from Unpasteurized Milk. As part of this guidance, it is recommended that manufacturers label their products with the words "made from raw or unpasteurized milk" on the principal display panel of the product and/or declare the raw or unpasteurized milk in the list of ingredients. The purpose of this labelling is to assist consumers in making informed choices about the consumption of products containing unpasteurized milk, particularly for vulnerable populations who may be at greater risk of developing foodborne illness.

Additional Information

Guidelines

Information Letters/ Policy Updates

Record of Decisions

Definitions

Butter Product

Calorie-reduced butter, dairy spread, light butter (lite butter) and whey butter [2, DPR].

Dairy Product

Milk or a product thereof, whether alone or combined with another agricultural product, that contains no oil or fat other than that of milk [2, DPR].

Milk

"Milk" or "whole milk", as used in the manufacture of dairy products, means the normal lacteal secretion, free from colostrum, obtained from the mammary gland of an animal [2, DPR].

Milk Fat

"Milk fat" or "butter fat", in the case of fat from cow's milk, means fat from cow's milk that meets the requirements of section B.08.006 of the FDR. [2, DPR]

Milk Product

  • Milk product as per the DPR [2, DPR], means any of the following, namely,
    • partly skimmed milk, skim milk, cream, buttermilk, whey and whey cream,
    • milk in concentrated, dried, frozen or reconstituted form and any product referred to in paragraph (a) in concentrated, dried, frozen or reconstituted form,
    • butter, butter oil and whey butter,
    • milk solids, and
    • whey protein concentrate
  • Milk product as per the FDR [B.08.001.1, FDR], means:
    • With respect to butter or whey butter, any of the following products, namely:
      1. Partly skimmed milk, skim milk, cream, buttermilk and whey cream, and
      2. Milk in concentrated, dried or reconstituted form and any product referred to in subparagraph (i) in concentrated, dried or reconstituted form;
    • With respect to cheese, any of the following products, namely:
      1. Party skimmed milk, skim milk, cream, buttermilk, whey and whey cream,
      2. Milk in concentrated, dried, frozen or reconstituted form and any product referred to in in subparagraph (i) in concentrated, dried, frozen or reconstituted form,
      3. Butter, butter oil and whey butter
      4. Any constituent of milk – other than water – singly or in combination with other constituents of milk, and
      5. Whey protein concentrate.

Milk Solids

Means [2, DPR]

  1. in respect of a dairy product, other than cheese, for which a grade or standard is established under the DPR, any constituent of milk – other than water or casein – singly or in combination with other constituents of milk, that has not been altered in its chemical composition, and
  2. in respect of cheese, any constituent of milk – other than water – singly or in combination with other constituents of milk.

Packaged Cheese

The product resulting from the comminuting and mixing of one or more lots of cheese with the aid of heat or emulsifying agents, and includes prepackaged cream cheese and prepackaged cream cheese products, prepackaged grated cheese and prepackaged grated cheese product [2, DPR].

Packed in Bulk

With respect to a dairy product, means a dairy product that has been placed directly into a container for the purpose of storing, shipping or marketing where the product is not ordinarily sold to or used or purchased by a consumer without being repackaged [2, DPR].

Partly-Skimmed Milk Powder

Partly-skimmed milk in powder form [2, DPR].

Pasteurized

With respect to a dairy product, means that the product or that the milk product from which it was made was subjected, under controlled conditions, to heat at a temperature and for a time sufficient to destroy all of the pathogenic types of micro-organisms and most of the other organisms present [2, DPR].

Prepackaged

With respect to a dairy product, means a dairy product that is packaged in a container in such a manner that it is ordinarily sold to or used or purchased by a consumer without being repackaged [2, DPR].

Ultrafiltered

In relation to milk, partly skimmed milk or skim milk, means that the milk, partly skimmed milk or skim milk has been subjected to a process in which it is passed over one or more semi-permeable membranes to partially remove water, lactose, minerals and water-soluble vitamins without altering the whey protein to casein ratio and that results in a liquid product [2, DPR; B.08.001.1, FDR].

Date modified: