Front-of-package nutrition labelling


June 30, 2022

Health Canada is introducing new nutrition labelling regulations for packaged foods requiring a symbol on the front of packages indicating that a food is high in saturated fat, sugars and/or sodium. The regulations will come into effect on July 20, 2022.

The new front-of-package (FOP) nutrition symbol includes a magnifying glass, intended to capture people’s attention and act as a quick and easy visual cue to identify foods high in these three nutrients. The FOP nutrition symbol will complement the Nutrition Facts table, displayed on the back of food packages, to help Canadians make more informed food choices.

Saturated fat, sugars and sodium are nutrients of concern; evidence is clear that high intakes of saturated fat, sugars and/or sodium can contribute to various diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

FOP nutrition labelling is widely recognized by health organizations and the scientific community as an effective tool to help counteract rising rates of diet-related chronic disease. For example, FOP nutrition labelling has been successful in Chile, where it is estimated that household food purchases contained 37% less sodium and 27% less sugar after the country implemented a similar front-of-package labelling system to the one Canada is implementing.

These tools, along with Canada’s food guide, aim to improve the food environment in Canada and ultimately lower the risk of diet-related chronic disease.

Foods that will require a FOP nutrition symbol

Health Canada will require a FOP nutrition symbol on most, but not all, prepackaged foods that require a Nutrition Facts table. Those that meet or exceed certain levels (i.e., thresholds) for saturated fat, sugars or sodium. The thresholds correspond to a percentage of the daily value (DV) per reference amount or serving size, whichever is greater, for saturated fat, sugars or sodium.

The term “reference amount” means the amount of food a person typically consumes in one sitting. The serving size is the quantity of food used to calculate the numbers in the Nutrition Facts table and is based on the reference amount.

Foods that will require a FOP nutrition symbol include:

  • General prepackaged foods that meet or exceed 15% DV of saturated fat, sugars or sodium
    • Such foods could include deli meats, soups, frozen desserts or puddings.
  • Prepackaged foods with a small reference amount (≤ 30 g or mL) that meet or exceed 10% DV of saturated fat, sugars or sodium
    • Because these foods are typically consumed in smaller amounts and can be concentrated sources of these nutrients, they have a lower threshold.
    • Such foods could include pickles, salad dressing, cookies or breakfast cereals.
  • Prepackaged main dishes with a reference amount of ≥ 200 g* that meet or exceed 30% DV of saturated fat, sugars or sodium
    • Because foods that are consumed as a main dish can be expected to make up more of your daily intake of nutrients, they have a higher threshold.
    • Such foods could include frozen lasagna, meat pie or pizza.

*170 g for main dishes intended solely for children 1 to 4 years of age

Exemptions from the FOP nutrition symbol

Health Canada is exempting certain foods from the requirement to display a FOP nutrition symbol. There are three different types of exemptions:

  1. Health-related exemptions
    • Foods that have a recognized health protection benefit for the whole population or vulnerable sub-populations. This includes:
      • whole or cut vegetables and fruits that are fresh, frozen, canned or dried;
      • 2% and whole milk;
      • eggs;
      • foods with a healthy fat profile, such as vegetable oils, nuts and fatty fish; and
      • any combination of these foods.
        • These foods lose their exemption when they are made with an ingredient that contains saturated fat, sugars and/or sodium.
    • Foods that are important sources of “shortfall nutrients”, which are nutrients that are not readily available in other foods and that most people in Canada don’t get enough of. For example, many cheeses and yogurts made from dairy products are exempt from requiring a nutrition symbol for naturally occurring (not added) saturated fat and sugars (i.e., lactose) because dairy products are important contributors to the calcium intake of Canadians. Calcium is an essential nutrient that many Canadians do not get enough of, and insufficient calcium is linked to the development of osteoporosis. In addition, many cheeses are exempt from requiring a nutrition symbol for sodium since sodium is required in the cheese-making process. For these products to benefit from an exemption they must contain a specific percentage of the DV for calcium. The ongoing need for this exemption will be reassessed after ten years.
    • Foods that are formulated to meet the needs of specific populations, such as individual rations for military personnel use.
  2. Technical exemptions
    • Foods that do not require a Nutrition Facts table. Examples include raw, single ingredient whole meats, poultry and fish, and foods sold at farmers’ markets.
    • Raw, single ingredient ground meats and poultry. While these products, unlike whole cuts of meat and poultry, have a Nutrition Facts table, they are of similar nutritional value as whole cuts. Requiring a symbol on ground meats and poultry and not on whole cuts of meat may lead people in Canada to erroneously believe that all whole cuts are healthier than ground. In certain cases these exemptions will be lost, such as if a claim is made. or if anything is added to the meat like salt, saturated fat or even spices.
    • Foods that are not sold directly to consumers and those in very small packages, such as coffee creamers in single-serving cups and mini chocolate bars.
  3. Practical exemptions
    • Foods on which the nutrition symbol would be redundant, such as packages of sugar, honey, maple syrup, table and flavoured salt, butter and other fats and oils.

Next steps

The food industry has been given until January 1, 2026, to make this change. However, you may start seeing the FOP nutrition symbol earlier.

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