Forward Regulatory Plan 2021-2023: Regulations Amending Certain Regulations under the Food and Drugs Act - Healthy Eating Provisions including Nutrition Symbols, Other Labelling Provisions, Partially Hydrogenated Oils and Vitamin D
Title of Regulatory Initiative
Regulations Amending Certain Regulations under the Food and Drugs Act - Healthy Eating Provisions including Nutrition Symbols, Other Labelling Provisions, Partially Hydrogenated Oils and Vitamin D
Food and Drugs Act
Today's food environment makes it very difficult for Canadians to make healthy food choices.
Canadians' average intake of sodium, sugars and saturated fats remain above recommended intakes. Poor diets with high levels of these nutrients are risk factors for overweight and obesity, hypertension and non-communicable chronic diseases (NCDs), such as heart disease and stroke, some cancers and type 2 diabetes. To address these issues, Health Canada is taking action in the following key areas:
Front-of-package labelling (Nutrition symbols)
The Minister of Health’s December 13, 2019, mandate letter reconfirms the Prime Minister’s commitment to promote healthy eating, including continuing work to introduce new restrictions on the commercial marketing of food and beverages to children and establishing new front-of-package labelling.
Health Canada is introducing front-of-package (FOP) labelling for certain prepackaged foods high in sodium, sugars and saturated fat. FOP labelling will complement existing labelling measures and provide Canadians with simplified, easily visible information to help them make choices that improve their health and reduce their risks of chronic disease.
Other Labelling Provisions
To align with the 2016 updates to the nutrition labelling regulations, Health Canada is amending the regulations for nutrient content claims and quantitative statements. The Department is also removing unnecessary labelling requirements for some high-intensity sweeteners, with the aim of bringing consistency to the labelling of foods containing approved sweeteners.
Elimination of Partially Hydrogenated Oils
Eating foods that have trans fats increases the risk of heart disease. On September 17, 2018, Health Canada's prohibition of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) the main source of industrially produced trans fat in foods, came into effect.
The prohibition on the use of PHOs was implemented by means of an administrative amendment to the incorporated List of Contaminants and Other Adulterating Substances in Foods (further information available in the Notice of Modification – Prohibiting the Use of Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHOs) in Foods). However, certain consequential amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations need to be made to ensure a coherent prohibition on the use of PHOs in foods. These amendments include adding the definitions of "partially hydrogenated oil" and "fully hydrogenated oil", removing references to PHOs and ensuring the language in the Food and Drug Regulations is consistent with that of the incorporated list.
According to recently updated dietary recommendations, there is a high prevalence of inadequate vitamin D intakes among Canadians. Health Canada recognizes that it might be challenging for Canadians to meet recommended intakes through the current food supply. As such, the Department, as part of its multi-phased strategy to expand vitamin D fortification, is proposing to increase the mandatory level of vitamin D addition in milk (cow and goat) and margarine.
Regulatory cooperation efforts (domestic and international)
Food labels on prepackaged products in Canada differ from those used in the United States (U.S.) due to Canada's bilingual labelling requirements and use of the metric system. Despite these differences, the health objective of providing consumers with nutrition information is similar in both countries.
Furthermore, elements of this regulatory package, which support the Healthy Eating Strategy, are aligned with or similar to U.S. requirements (e.g. labelling of high-intensity sweeteners).
With respect to mandatory FOP labelling, currently there is no equivalent U.S. requirement for foods containing nutrients of public health concern at or above a certain threshold. Other jurisdictions have adopted various systems of mandatory or voluntary FOP labelling. Chile, for example, implemented in 2016 the mandatory FOP labelling of foods high in nutrients of concern. Mexico also implemented a similar mandatory FOP system in 2020. The Codex Alimentarius Commission, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations support the need to assist consumers in making healthier choices through the use of simplified, science-based nutrition information on the front of food packages.
According to a recent report by Public Health England, there is consistent evidence that people who are overweight or obese are at increased risk of death or severe illness from COVID-19 compared to those of a healthy body weight.
Potential impacts on Canadians, including businesses
A comprehensive cost-benefit statement was included in the Canada Gazette, Part I, and will also be included in the Canada Gazette, Part II.
The proposed regulations will greatly benefit Canadians by improving consumer access to easy-to-use information on foods high in sodium, sugars and/or saturated fat to help reduce consumption of these nutrients. It also estimates the indirect benefit of the reductions in risk of disease due to improved nutrition and any downstream health care savings.
Industry will incur costs as a result of FOP labelling, however, it is estimated that this represents less than 2% of food manufacturers annual gross revenue in 2017, prior to COVID-19. These costs are strictly for implementing the regulations and it is assumed that these costs will be absorbed by Canadian businesses. It is possible that industry will choose to reformulate some impacted products to avoid an FOP nutrition symbol.
Overall, the benefits of requiring FOP nutrition labelling are expected to greatly outweigh the costs.
Consultations on FOP labelling and other labelling provisions
From November 14, 2016 to January 13, 2017, Health Canada launched an on-line consultation to obtain feedback from consumers and stakeholders on policy proposals for FOP labelling, and other labelling updates.
Public opinion research involving a diverse range of Canadians was also conducted in December 2016 to gather consumer feedback on the proposed FOP nutrition symbols. A report on the results is published on the Library and Archives Canada website.
In addition, Health Canada undertook a one-day meeting with stakeholders and experts in September 2017 to discuss FOP labelling evidence, and options for the design of the nutrition symbol.
Targeted discussions were also held with phenylketonuria (PKU) stakeholder groups and experts to obtain their views on the need for and use of current labelling requirements for aspartame, which must be restricted or avoided altogether by individuals with this condition.
A regulatory proposal was pre-published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, on February 10, 2018 for a 75 day comment period. This was accompanied by the publication of a notice of proposal as well as a proposed document for incorporation by reference, each for a 75 day comment period: Notice of Proposal: Incorporating by Reference the Table of Permitted Nutrient Content Statements and Claims.
On February 9, 2018, Health Canada launched an online consultation on the front-of-package labelling nutrition symbol to explore which symbols Canadians find more useful in making food choices. This consultation closed on April 26, 2018. A World Trade Organization (WTO) notification on Health Canada’s proposed FOP regulations was distributed to WTO member countries on February 23, 2018, with a deadline for comments by April 26, 2018. A copy of the notice is available on the WTO’s website.
A design workshop was held in June 2018 with food packaging, printing and labelling experts to discuss technical issues and industry concerns related to the nutrition symbol design and related technical specifications.
Consultations on the elimination of partially hydrogenated oils
On November 14, 2016, Health Canada launched an online consultation to obtain feedback from consumers and stakeholders on the proposed elimination of partially hydrogenated oils from the food supply. The 60 day comment period closed on January 13, 2017.
This was followed by the publication of a Notice of Proposal on April 7, 2017 for a 75 day comment period. On September 15, 2017, Health Canada published a Notice of Modification confirming its decision to proceed with prohibiting the use of PHOs in food. Related consequential amendments form part of the regulatory proposal pre-published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, on February 10, 2018.
The timing of the publication of the amendments to the regulations in the Canada Gazette, Part ll is to take place in fall 2021.
A summary of proposed amendments is pre-published in Canada Gazette, Part I.
An overview of stakeholder engagements related to Healthy Eating Strategy initiatives is publically available on the "meetings and correspondence on healthy eating" webpage.
Additional information can be requested from the departmental contact.
Departmental contact information
Office of Legislative and Regulatory Modernization
Policy, Planning and International Affairs Directorate
Health Products and Food Branch
Telephone number: 613-946-6586
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date the regulatory initiative was first included in the Forward Regulatory Plan
April 1, 2017
Consult Health Canada's acts and regulations web page for:
- a list of acts and regulations administered by Health Canada
- further information on Health Canada's implementation of government-wide regulatory management initiatives
Consult the following for links to the Cabinet Directive on Regulation and supporting policies and guidance, and for information on government-wide regulatory initiatives implemented by departments and agencies across the Government of Canada:
To learn about upcoming or ongoing consultations on proposed federal regulations, visit:
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