• The Acheson Group

Canada’s Label Changes to Impact Domestic, Imported and Exported Foods

In late June, Canada proposed changes to its food labelling regulations as part of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) Food Labelling Modernization (FLM) initiative. The proposed changes to the Food and Drug Regulations and the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations amend outdated and unnecessary regulations and provide the food industry with some flexibility in how the regulations apply to certain requirements.

Additionally, the changes take a number of very prescriptive label requirements that appear in existing regulations and put them under "incorporation by reference," effectually moving them from fixed within regulation to more easily amended policies. CFIA sees this as “necessary in an evolving food environment and helps promote innovation and facilitate market access for Canadian food businesses.”

Proposed changes include those which the government sees as better aligning Canada’s labelling requirements with international standards and the requirements of key trading partners to facilitate trade for Canada’s food industry; and those which are intended to make information on food labels clearer to improve consumers’ ability to compare products, read and understand labels, and obtain useful product information, such as where imported food comes from, what the food contains, and how long the quality of the food will last.

Several changes are proposed that relate to date marking (best before date), food company contact information, origin of imported foods, legibility and location of label information, percentage declaration of characterizing ingredients, test market foods, standard container sizes, class names, as well as modernizing and streamlining food commodity specific labelling requirements. CFIA has included tables of each of these on its webpage, listing the current requirement, proposed change, and rationale for the change.

We see the key changes as being:

  • In addition to the current requirement for company name and address, the label must include contact information, such as phone number, email, or website address.

  • For imported foods, the country where last substantial transformation took place must be declared.

  • For characterizing ingredients, if an ingredient is included as part of the product name, the product must include a substantial amount of that ingredient.

  • Food labels will have more consistent best before and expiry date.

  • Many standard container size requirements will be eliminated.

U.S. food businesses that export to Canada – or wish to do so – will find the elimination of the standard container size requirements to be of particular interest, as they will no longer have to change containers sizes to access Canadian markets.

To ensure the industry is given adequate time to make labelling changes, CFIA is proposing a very generous phased-in transition period. Though not finalized, the proposed dates are:

  • Summer 2020. Upon registration of the regulatory changes in the Canada Gazette, Part II, elements that do not require a label change will take effect. These include standard container sizes, class names (incorporation by reference), streamlining of commodity specific labelling where no label change is required, and defining of "Test market food."

  • December 2022 (two years after registration). Date marking, food company information, foreign country or state of origin of imported food, and streamlining of commodity specific labelling where label change may be required take effect.

  • December 2026 (six years after registration). Legibility and location and characterizing ingredients will be required.

The proposed changes are in consultation until September 4, 2019, during which time comments can be submitted. With our team of TAG Canada experts, TAG can provide advice to both U.S. and Canadian companies in determining how the proposed rules will affect them.

About The Acheson Group (TAG)

Led by Former FDA Associate Commissioner for Foods Dr. David Acheson, TAG is a food safety consulting group that provides guidance and expertise worldwide for companies throughout the food supply chain. With in-depth industry knowledge combined with real-world experience, TAG's team of food safety experts help companies more effectively mitigate risk, improve operational efficiencies, and ensure regulatory and standards compliance. www.AchesonGroup.com