Summary of proposed amendments published in Canada Gazette,  Part I: nutrition symbols, other labelling provisions, partially hydrogenated oils and vitamin D

1. Introduction

The purpose of this document is to provide a summary and guide to the proposed amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR). These amendments will introduce and/or address:

  • front-of-package nutrition labelling
  • nutrient content claims
  • high-intensity sweetener labelling
  • definitions and references to hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils
  • addition of vitamin D to foods

Where applicable, the proposed amendments are identified by their related sections in the regulations (e.g. B.01.350).

Health Canada is seeking feedback from interested Canadians and stakeholders on these proposals between February 10, 2018 and April 26, 2018.

2. Front-of-package nutrition labelling

Health Canada is proposing to require a front-of-package nutrition symbol on foods high in saturated fat, sugars and/or sodium. This symbol will help Canadians quickly and easily identify foods that are high in these nutrients. High intakes of saturated fat, sugars and sodium are linked to chronic conditions and diseases, such as obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. This proposal is part of Health Canada's Healthy Eating Strategy, which aims to make the healthier choice easier for all Canadians.

The front-of-package nutrition labelling proposal consists of four major parts:

  1. nutrition symbol design
  2. thresholds
  3. exemptions
  4. format specifications

i. Nutrition symbol design

In addition to the regulatory consultation in Canada Gazette Part I, Health Canada is conducting an online consultation on the front-of-package nutrition symbols outlined in the figures below. These nutrition symbols are not shown in the proposed regulations, however, once selected, one nutrition symbol will be included in the final regulations that will be published in Canada Gazette, Part II, and will be inserted directly in the FDR. The final symbol will be chosen based on the feedback from this online consultation and the outcomes of consumer research.

Front-of-package nutrition symbol options for consultation and consumer research

Figure 1 - Long description

This figure shows the magnifying glass nutrition symbol design.

There is a white rectangular box outlined by a thin black rule.

Centered at the top of the box is the heading "High in" forward slash "Élevé en" in black, bold, mixed-case text.

Left justified under the heading is a large magnifying glass. The circular component of the magnifying glass is left justified and centered in the rectangle. It has a very thick black outline. The inside is white. The handle component of the magnifying glass is thick and black and extends from the edge of the circle to the bottom left corner of the rectangle. Three black bars extend out from the right side of the circular component of the magnifying glass with some white space between the circle edge and the start of each bar. There is a small amount of white space between the bars. The top bar contains the words "Sat fat" forward slash "Gras sat" in white, bold, mixed-case font. The middle bar contains the words "Sugars" forward slash "Sucres" in white, bold, mixed-case font. The bottom bar contains the word "Sodium" in white, bold, mixed-case font.

Centered below the circular component of the magnifying glass and the last bar are the words "Health Canada" forward slash "Santé Canada" in black mixed-case font.

Figure 2 - Long description

This figure shows the exclamation mark nutrition symbol design.

There is a white rectangular box outlined by a thin black rule.

Centered at the top of the box is the heading "High in" forward slash "Élevé en" in black, bold, mixed-case text.

Left justified under the heading is a large black, bold exclamation point within a white circle. Three black bars extend out from the right side of the circle. There is a small amount of white space between each black bar. The top black bar contains the words "Sat fat" forward slash "Gras sat" in white, bold, mixed-case font. The middle black bar contains the words "Sugars" forward slash "Sucres" in white, bold, mixed-case font. The bottom black bar contains the word "Sodium" in white, bold, mixed-case font.

Centered below the exclamation point and the last bar are the words "Health Canada" forward slash "Santé Canada" in black mixed-case font.

 
Figure 3 - Long description

This figure shows the red rectangle nutrition symbol design.

There is a rectangular box outlined by a thin black rule.

Inside is a red rectangle in the left third part of the symbol. Centered in this red rectangle are two lines of text in bold, white, mixed-case font. On the first line are the words "High in". On the second line are the words "Élevé en". Three black bars of the same size extend out from the right side of the red rectangle to the end of the rectangular box. Between the bars is a thin white line. A little red triangle extends from the red rectangle into each of the black bars. The top black bar contains the words "Sat fat" forward slash "Gras sat" in white, bold, mixed-case font. The middle black bar contains the words "Sugars" forward slash "Sucres" in white, bold, mixed-case font. The bottom black bar contains the word "Sodium" in white, bold, mixed-case font.

Below the red rectangle and the last black bar there is a thin white rectangle that spans the length of the rectangular box. Centered in this rectangle are the words "Health Canada" forward slash "Santé Canada" in black mixed-case font.

Figure 4 - Long description

This figure shows the black rectangle nutrition symbol design.

There is a rectangular box outlined by a thin black rule.

Inside is a black rectangle in the left third part of the symbol. Centered in this black rectangle are two lines of text in bold, white, mixed-case font. On the first line are the words "High in". On the second line are the words "Élevé en". Three white bars of the same size extend out from the right side of the black rectangle to the end of the rectangular box. Between the bars is a thin black line. A little black triangle extends from the black rectangle into each of the white bars. The top white bar contains the words "Sat fat" forward slash "Gras sat" in black, bold, mixed-case font. The middle white bar contains the words "Sugars" forward slash "Sucres" in black, bold, mixed-case font. The bottom white bar contains the word "Sodium" in black, bold, mixed-case font.

Below the black rectangle and the last white bar there is a thin white rectangle that spans the length of the rectangular box. Centered in this rectangle are the words "Health Canada" forward slash "Santé Canada" in black mixed-case font.

ii. Thresholds

Regulatory section: B.01.350

Health Canada is proposing to require a front-of-package nutrition symbol on pre-packaged foods that meet or exceed certain levels (thresholds) for saturated fat, sugars and/or sodium (Table 1), which will be specified in the Regulations. The proposed thresholds correspond to a percentage of the Daily Value (DV) for saturated fat, sugars and sodium. The DVs are outlined in the Table of Daily Values.

Table 1: Proposed thresholds for requiring a front-of-package nutrition symbol
  Saturated Fat Sugars Sodium
Prepackaged foods

15% DV
(3 g)

15% DV
(15 g)

15% DV
(350 mg)

Prepackaged meals and main dishes

30% DV
(6 g)

30% DV
(30 g)

30% DV
(690 mg)

Foods intended solely for children 1 to 4 years of agetable 1 note *

15% DV
(1.5 g)

15% DV
(8 g)

15% DV
(230 mg)

Table 1 Notes
Table 1 Note *

Daily Values for children aged 1 to 4 years are lower than those for the general population

Return to table 1 note * referrer

Health Canada is proposing that the amount of food (in grams) used as a basis for the thresholds be the largest of:

  • the regulated reference amount
  • the serving size that appears in the nutrition facts table
  • 50 g of the food, if its serving size and reference amount are less than 50 g or mL and the % DV of the nutrient in a serving and reference amount of the food is 5% or more

The basis of 50 g, proposed for foods with small reference amounts and serving sizes, is to ensure that foods that are concentrated sources of saturated fat, sugars and/or sodium will display the front-of-package nutrition symbol. Examples of such foods include sauces, condiments, salad dressings, confectionaries, breakfast cereals, snack bars and coffee cream. This is proposed because these foods can contribute to excess consumption of the nutrients of concern.

iii. Exemptions

Regulatory sections: B.01.350(3)-B.01.350(6)

Health Canada is proposing to exempt certain foods from the requirement to display a front-of-package nutrition symbol. Exemptions occur when:

  • the food is already exempt from displaying a nutrition facts table. Examples include: raw single-ingredient meats (except ground meats) and foods sold at farmers' markets
  • there is evidence that the food provides a protective effect on health. Examples include fruits and vegetables without added saturated fat, sugars, or sodium; whole and 2% milk; and most vegetable oils such as canola and olive oil
  • the information in the symbol would be redundant. Examples include sweetening agents such as table sugar, honey and maple syrup, as well as table and flavoured salts (e.g. garlic salt, onion salt)

iv. Format specifications

Health Canada is proposing requirements for the format of the front-of-package nutrition symbol that manufacturers must follow when displaying the symbol on their food packages. These specifications (Table 2) will help to ensure that the symbol is easy to find, read, and use on packages when the symbol is required.

Table 2: Format requirements for the front-of-package nutrition symbol
Element FDR section Description

Size of symbol and other technical specifications

  • B.01.351
  • B.01.352 and the table following this section
  • B.01.354

The size of the front-of-package nutrition symbol will be determined by the size of the package's principal display surface (PDS)table 2 note . This and other technical specifications required for the symbol, such as colour, font style and size and attribution to Health Canada are outlined in the Directory of Nutrition Symbol Formats, which will be incorporated by reference in the regulations.

Buffer zone

  • B.01.355(4)

A buffer zone around the nutrition symbol where text will not be permitted.

Placement of symbol

B.01.355 - B.01.356

The nutrition symbol must be placed in the top 25% of the principal display panel (PDP)table 2 note , except where the width of the PDS of a package is greater than its height. In this case, it must be placed on the right 25% of the PDP.

Placement of other nutrition symbols, claims and statements

  • B.01.301(4)
  • B.01.311(6)
  • B.01.357(1)
  • B.01.501.1(1)
  • B.01.600.1(1)
  • D.01.001.2(1)

Other nutrition or health related symbols, statements or claims must be displayed in the bottom 65% of the PDP, except where the width of the PDS of a package is greater than its height. In this case, they must be displayed on the left 65% of the PDP.

Size of other nutrition symbols, claims and statements

  • B.01.301(5)
  • B.01.311(7)
  • B.01.357(2)
  • B.01.501.1(2)
  • B.01.600.1(2)
  • D.01.001.2(2)

The size of other nutrition or health related symbols, statements and claims present on a food package must not exceed a type size of twice the height of the capital letters within the front-of-package nutrition symbol.

Table 2 Notes
Table 2 Note †

The principal display surface is the front-facing part of a food package that is usually displayed at the grocery store.

Return to table 1 note referrer

Table 2 Note ‡

The principal display panel is the main label of the food package. It can be the whole principal display surface of a package, or the label attached to the principal display surface.

Return to table 2 note referrer

3. Nutrient content claims

Health Canada is proposing that the table of nutrient content claims following section B.01.513 be repealed and incorporated by reference in the FDR as the Table of Permitted Nutrient Content Statements and Claims. This will enable more timely updates of these types of claims in response to new evidence.

At the same time, Health Canada is also proposing amendments to other nutrient content claims and health claims, such as:

  • those on beverages with 0-0.5% alcohol [B.01.502(2)(j)]
  • those on foods intended solely for young children [B.01.502(2)(g), B.01.503(2), B.01.601(1)(c)(i)]
  • sugars-related nutrient content claims, such as the "no added sugars" and "free of sugars" claims [Table of Permitted Nutrient Content Statements and Claims: Items 37, 37.1, 40 and 40.1]
  • saturated and trans fat-related nutrient content claims [Table of Permitted Nutrient Content Statements and Claims: Items 18 and 22]

These updates are proposed to ensure that these claims are consistent with the proposed new front-of-package nutrition symbol regulations and the Regulations Amending the Food and Drug Regulations (Nutrition Labelling, Other Labelling Provisions and Food Colours), which were published in December 2016.

4. High-intensity sweetener labelling

Regulatory sections: B.01.008.1-B.01.008.2, B.01.010.2 - B.01.023

Health Canada is proposing to repeal the following labelling requirements for foods containing aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame-potassium and neotame:

  • the statement on the PDP that a food contains one of these high-intensity sweeteners and any other sweeteners used in that food
  • the quantitative declaration of the content of the high-intensity sweetener in a food (in mg per serving), found in the list of ingredients

None of the other sweeteners approved by Health Canada for use in foods currently require this extra labelling. Therefore, the proposed amendments will bring consistency to the labelling of all sweeteners in Canada. Foods sweetened with aspartame will still be required to include the statement, "Phenylketonurics: contains phenylalanine", or a statement to the effect that aspartame contains phenylalanine. This statement will appear in bold type at the end of the list of ingredients. It is important to note that all sweeteners will still appear in the list of ingredients on the product label.

5. Definitions and references to hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils.

Regulatory sections: table to B.01.009(1), B.01.009(4)(b), table to B.01.010(3)(a), B.09.011-B.09.016, B.14.006, B.21.009, B.22.010

Health Canada has introduced a ban on the use of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the main source of industrially-produced trans fats in foods, by adding PHOs to Part 1 of the List of Contaminants and Other Adulterating Substances in Foods. This was detailed in the Notice of Modification: Prohibiting the Use of Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHOs) in Foods, published on September 15, 2017.

To align with this change, Health Canada is proposing to make the following amendments to the FDR:

  • removing references to PHOs
  • revising definitions of hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils

6. Addition of vitamin D to foods

Regulatory sections: B.08.003-B.08.029, B.09.016(b)

Health Canada is proposing to increase the amount of vitamin D required to be added to milk and margarine to help Canadians meet the recommended intake levels that were updated in 2011. Under the new regulations this will be 2 µg/100 mL for milk and 26 µg/100 g for margarine. This is approximately twice the current requirement.

7. Coming into force and transitional provisions

These proposed regulations will come into force upon publication in Canada Gazette, Part II, with the exception of provisions related to vitamin D, which will be delayed by 6 months. This is because manufacturers need to be compliant with the new nutrition facts table and the new mandatory vitamin D levels at the same time to reflect the change in the DV. Hence, for those manufacturers who have already updated their nutrition facts table, they will have a 6 month period to adjust the vitamin D levels in their products and change their labels. Health Canada is proposing a transition period that ends in December 2022 to comply with the provisions of this proposal, with the exception of the provisions related to PHOs, for which there is no transition period.

Health Canada is also proposing to amend the transition period for the Regulations Amending the Food and Drug Regulations (Nutrition Labelling, Other Labelling Provisions and Food Colours) to December 2022, to align with the transition period of this proposal. This will allow manufacturers to make all label changes at once.

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