Food Labelling and Allergen Control

Health Canada, through the Food and Drug Act, regulates the labelling of food products in Canada. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is the federal agency responsible for enforcing these regulations.

Nutrition Labelling Regulations  

In 2003, Health Canada amended the Food and Drug Regulations pertaining to nutrition labelling, nutrient content and health claims to be used on food labels or in advertisements.  Nutrition labelling became mandatory for most pre-packaged foods on December 12, 2005.  Smaller businesses* had until December 12, 2007 to comply with the new legislation.  The new legislation also includes the provision of a Nutrition Facts table.

*Manufacturers who had gross revenues from food sales in Canada of less than $1 million in the 12-month period prior to December 12, 2002

Nutrition Facts Table

The 'Nutrition Facts' table is intended to provide more information to the consumers on the foods they buy and eat. Thus, they can compare this information and make healthier food choices. This information needs to be presented in a complete, consistent and easy-to-read format. To facilitate consistency on the tables, Health Canada had published The Compendium of Templates for 'Nutrition Facts' Tables (PDF 642KB), which includes templates of the various versions of the 'Nutrition Facts' table permitted by the Food and Drug Regulations on nutrition labelling.

The 'Nutrition Facts' table must provide information on calories and on the following 13 nutrients: fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrate, fibre, sugars, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron.

The 'Nutrition Facts' table will appear on most pre-packaged products, but some exceptions include:

  • fresh fruit and vegetables
  • raw meat and poultry, except for ground meat and ground poultry
  • raw fish and seafood
  • food products prepared and sold in retail establishments (ex: sausages made at retail)
  • products with insignificant amounts of all 13 core nutrients in a normal serving
  • alcoholic beverages
  • individual servings of food intended for immediate consumption

More information on 'Nutrition Facts' table is at: nutrition labelling (CFIA)

Nutrient Content and Health Claims

Regulations for making nutrient content claims (ex: low in saturated fat, low sodium, etc) and for presenting this information properly on food labels are available at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website.

Diet-related health claims, for foods products related to risk reduction of heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and high blood pressure, are also being allowed for the first time in Canada. For more information on diet-related health claims visit the CFIA website.  

Lab Testing for Nutritional Content Claims

Several laboratories in Manitoba test for nutrition content on food products. A list of labs is included in the "Laboratory and Testing Resources section." This list is not complete and the laboratories are not endorsed by Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency recommends using an accredited laboratory that uses validated testing methods. A list of accredited labs can be accessed through the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) website at scc.ca

Besides lab testing, nutrition labelling can be generated using the software Genesis R&D SQL, designed by ESHA Research. This software produces a nutrient fact table for food products based on a database comprised of 26,000 entries of raw materials, chemicals and food ingredients. The Food Development Centre in Portage la Prairie is one of the institutions that provide nutrition labelling services using this software.  

Ingredient Listing

In both Canada and the United States, all ingredients must be listed by their common name, in descending order of proportion. The list of ingredients must be complete, including potential allergenic ingredients. The size of the text and its position on the label are also regulated.  

Allergen Control

The presence of undeclared allergens in foods not only creates a risk of life-threatening allergic reactions in persons with allergies, but also can lead to costly recalls.

As a result of the high risk of some allergic reactions, food processors must declare on the label any of the following foods, or any protein-containing derivatives of these if added as an ingredient in pre-packaged foods:

  • mustard seed
  • peanuts
  • tree nuts
  • sesame
  • sulphites
  • milk
  • eggs
  • fish, crustaceans and shellfish
  • soy
  • wheat  

On February 16, 2011, Health Canada published its final amendments to labelling requirements for priority food allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites. These amendments will become mandatory on August 04, 2012. Health Canada is now urging food manufacturers and importers to declare priority food allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites on food labels without exception, either in the list of ingredients or in a statement such as "Contains". Mustard seed is added to the regulatory definition of food allergen.

For more information on food allergens and how to manage an allergen risk in food products, visit CFIA website.

Where to Obtain More Information on Food Labelling

To obtain additional information on labelling and claims please visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) web site or contact CFIA office at (204) 983-2220 -269 Main Street, Room 613, Winnipeg, MB R3C 1B2.

For further information on food labelling, including proposed enhanced labelling initiatives to make label declaration of priority allergens mandatory, please visit the Health Canada website.  

Links

Please click on the following for information on labelling.

 

For more information, email the CVO/Food Safety Knowledge Centre or call 204-795-8418 in Winnipeg.