Regulating food

Learn how Health Canada oversees the safety and nutritional value of foods by creating regulations, policies and guidelines.

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Approving food products and processes

Health Canada develops food safety and nutritional regulations, policies and guidance under the Food and Drugs Act. This act governs the safety and nutritional quality of food sold in Canada.

We focus on the following areas:

Developing guidance documents

We develop guidance documents to help companies:

  • interpret policies, governing statutes and regulations
  • prepare submissions when seeking approval from Health Canada for food products and processes

These documents provide guidance on:

  • sodium reduction
  • novel foods
  • health claims
  • infant formulas
  • food labelling
  • food additives
  • processing aids
  • incidental additives
  • novel fibre sources
  • microbiological safety of foods
  • Temporary Marketing Authorization for foods

Assessing and monitoring food safety

To minimize health risks and ensure that you have access to safe and healthy food, we:

  • conduct research on foodborne bacteria, viruses and parasites
  • conduct surveillance and studies on chemical contaminants found in foods
  • set maximum residue limits for veterinary drugs in food-producing animals
  • assess the safety and effectiveness of new or improved food processing and handling methods
  • conduct health risk assessments in support of food safety investigations undertaken by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency

We assess the safety of:

Health Canada also keeps those with food allergies and dietary restrictions safe by requiring mandatory labelling of priority allergens. Priority allergens are:

  • soy
  • eggs
  • milk
  • sesame
  • tree nuts, such as:
    • pecans
    • walnuts
    • almonds
    • cashews
    • pine nuts
    • hazelnuts
    • pistachios
    • Brazil nuts
    • macadamia nuts
  • mustard
  • peanuts
  • sulphites
  • wheat
  • seafood, such as:
    • fish
    • shellfish
    • crustaceans

Monitoring food and nutrition

A healthy diet and access to a safe, nutritious food supply are important for a healthy and productive population. That is why we have regular surveillance to monitor:

  • food safety
  • nutritional status
  • food and nutrient intakes
  • nutrition-related public health issues

We collect, analyze, interpret and distribute data on food and nutrition, relying on surveys such as the:

Through the Chemicals Management Plan, we assess and take action on potentially harmful chemical substances, including those that may be found in food.

Enforcing compliance

While Health Canada develops food safety and nutrition labelling regulations, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency enforces the regulations. We support the agency to create tools that help industry comply with regulations. These tools include:

Collaborating with partners

To ensure the safety and nutritional quality of all food sold in Canada, we work with:

  • consumers
  • health professionals
  • consumer, industry and health associations
  • provincial, territorial and municipal governments

We work with these partners to develop national regulations, codes and guidelines for food safety approaches by all levels of government across Canada.

Engaging and informing Canadians

Health Canada engages and informs Canadians on important issues. We ask for your opinion and feedback on policies, guidance and regulatory proposals. We also inform Canadians of potential food-related hazards through:

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