Summary of amendments published in the Canada Gazette, Part II: Nutrition symbols, other labelling provisions, vitamin D and hydrogenated fats or oils

1. Introduction

The purpose of this document is to provide a summary of the published 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
  • definition and references to fully hydrogenated oils
  • addition of vitamin D to foods

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

2. Front-of-package nutrition labelling

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

The front-of-package nutrition labelling rules consist of four major parts:

  1. Nutrition symbol design
  2. Thresholds
  3. Exemptions and prohibitions
  4. Format specifications

i. Nutrition symbol design

Regulatory sections: B.01.351, B.01.352, and Schedule K.1

The nutrition symbol, outlined in Figure 1, was chosen based on feedback from consultations and the results of consumer research. The nutrition symbol must be displayed in black and white and attributed to Health Canada.

Figure 1. Health Canada's front-of-package nutrition symbol with the nutrients saturated fat (sat fat), sugars and sodium displayed.
cgii-en
Figure 1 - Text description

Health Canada's front-of-package nutrition symbol with the nutrients saturated fat (sat fat), sugars and sodium displayed (Figure 1)

This figure shows a nutrition symbol for the principal display panel that indicates that a prepackaged product is high in saturated fat, sugars and sodium. This symbol is bilingual, with the English text shown first, followed by the French text.

There is a white rectangular box outlined by a thin black line. At the top of the box is a heading composed of the words "High in" followed by a forward slash and the words "Élevé en" in black, bold, lower case letters, except that the first letter of the words "High" and "Élevé" are in upper case. Under the heading is a left-justified black magnifying glass with three bars stacked to its right. There is a small amount of white space between the magnifying glass and the left side of the three bars. This left side forms a concave curve that follows the curvature of the magnifying glass. There is a small amount of white space between each bar, as well as between the right side of the bars and the thin black line that outlines the box. The first bar is black and contains the words "Sat fat" followed by a forward slash and the words "Gras sat." in white, bold, lower case letters, except that the first letter of the words "Sat" and "Gras" are in upper case. The second bar is black and contains the word "Sugars" followed by a forward slash and the word "Sucres" in white, bold, lower case letters, except that the first letter of each word is in upper case. The third bar is black and contains the word "Sodium" in white, bold, lower case letters, except that the first letter is in upper case. Centred at the bottom of the box are the words "Health Canada" followed by a forward slash and the words "Santé Canada" in black, lower case letters, except that the first letter of each word is in upper case.

The nutrition symbol design is set out in Schedule K.1 in the FDR. The associated specifications, including dimensions, for each symbol format are set out in the Directory of Nutrition Symbol Specifications, which is incorporated by reference into the FDR. Further details about format requirements are described below in part iv.

ii. Thresholds

Regulatory sections: B.01.350(1)-(4)

Health Canada is requiring a nutrition symbol on prepackaged foods that meet or exceed certain levels (thresholds) for saturated fat, sugars and/or sodium (Table 1), which are specified in the Regulations. The 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. For prepackaged foods and main dishes intended solely for children aged 1 to 4 years, these thresholds are applied to the Daily Values specific to this age group.

In most cases, the thresholds for prepackaged foods are 15% of the DV for each nutrient of concern. The symbol will appear on a prepackaged food if the amount of a nutrient of concern in a specific quantity of the food meets or exceeds the threshold. That quantity of food will be the larger of the regulated reference amount or the serving size that appears in the nutrition facts table (NFt) or the supplemented food facts table (SFFt). The reference amount of a food is the amount typically consumed in one sitting. Reference amounts are defined in the Table of Reference Amounts for Food which is incorporated by reference in the FDR.

Table 1: Thresholds for requiring a front-of-package nutrition symbol Table 1 Footnote 1
Sat Fat Sugars Sodium Rationale
Prepackaged foods 15% DV 15% DV 15% DV Daily consumption of foods exceeding these thresholds would lead to excess intakes of nutrients of concern and increased risk of adverse health outcomes. The 15% is based on the latest dietary survey data (CCHS 2015) and is consistent with current nutrition recommendations and nutrition labelling policies.
Prepackaged foods with small reference amounts (≤ 30 g or mL) 10% DV 10% DV 10% DV These foods are often concentrated sources of nutrients of concern and can contribute to excess intakes. Examples include sauces, condiments, salad dressings and crackers.
Prepackaged main dishes with a reference amount of 200 g or moreTable 1 Footnote 2 30% DV 30% DV 30% DV These foods make larger contributions to the daily diet in terms of calories and nutrients than do individual foods. Examples include macaroni and cheese, pizza and burritos.
Footnote 1

Absolute amounts are based on rounding rules for each nutrient, as described in the FDR

Return to footnote 1 referrer

Footnote 2

170 g for foods intended solely for children 1 to 4 years of age

Return to footnote 2 referrer

iii. Exemptions and prohibitions

Regulatory sections: B.01.350(5)-(15)

Health Canada is exempting or prohibiting certain foods from the requirement to display a front-of-package nutrition symbol. There are three different types of exemptions:

  • Technical exemptions
    • Foods that are exempt from carrying an NFt or an SFFt are also exempt from the requirement to display a nutrition symbol, such as foods sold at farmers' markets and raw, single-ingredient whole meats, poultry and fish. In certain cases these exemptions will be lost, such as if a claim is made or the food contains added vitamins or minerals.
    • Raw, single ingredient ground meats and poultry to avoid giving the impression that they are nutritionally inferior to whole cuts. In certain cases this exemption will be lost, such as if a claim is made.
    • Foods that are not sold directly to consumers and those with very small packages, such as coffee creamers in single-serving cups and mini chocolate bars.
  • Health-related exemptions
    • Foods that have a recognized health protection benefit for the whole population or vulnerable sub-populations, such as whole or cut fruits and vegetables 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 that are not readily available in other foods. For example, most cheeses and yogurt made from dairy products are exempt from requiring a nutrition symbol for saturated fat and sugars because they are important contributors to calcium intake of people living in Canada. Calcium is an essential nutrient that many people living in Canada do not get enough of. Not consuming enough calcium is linked to the development of osteoporosis. In addition, most cheese is exempt from requiring a nutrition symbol for sodium since it 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 use.
  • 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.
  • Prohibitions
    • Additionally, infant formula, human milk fortifier, and infant foods, as well as most foods for special dietary uses regulated under Division 24, such as meal replacements and nutritional supplements, are prohibited from displaying a nutrition symbol. Requiring a nutrition symbol on these foods may discourage consumption of products that are often the primary or sole source of nutrition for vulnerable populations.

iv. Format specifications

Health Canada has included format requirements for the nutrition symbol that manufacturers must follow when it is required to be displayed on the front of a food package. Format requirements are included in both the Regulations and the Directory of Nutrition Symbol Specifications. The Regulations outline basic design requirements for the nutrition symbol and which format is required based on the size of a package's principal display surface (PDS). The Directory of Nutrition Symbol Specifications outlines graphic standards and size requirements for key features of each nutrition symbol format. Graphic illustrations and corresponding files for the variations of the nutrition symbol can be found in the Compendium of Nutrition Symbol Formats.

These format specifications (Table 2) will help ensure that the nutrition symbol is easy to find, read, and use on all packages.

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 nutrition symbol will be determined by the size of the package's PDSTable 2 Footnote 1. This and other technical specifications such as size of the magnifying glass, height of the black/white bars, text height and size of the minimum buffer around the symbol are outlined in the  Directory of Nutrition Symbol Specifications. A smaller nutrition symbol is permitted on foods with a PDS of > 250 cm2 that are labelled using retail scales.
Vertical or horizontal format B.01.351(3) In most cases, the nutrition symbol must be presented in a horizontal format. However, if a package has a PDS of ≤450 cm2 and the width of the acceptable horizontal nutrition symbol formats exceeds the width of the principal display panel (PDP)Table 2 footnote 2, then a vertical format must be displayed.
Buffer zone B.01.355(2) There will be a buffer zone around the nutrition symbol where text or other graphic material will not be permitted. The specifications for the size of the buffer are outlined in the Directory of Nutrition Symbol Specifications.
Placement of symbol B.01.355-B.01.356 The nutrition symbol must be placed in the top 50% of the PDP, except where the width of the PDP of a package is greater than its height. In this case, it must be placed on the right 50% of the PDP. The nutrition symbol must be oriented either in the same manner as most of the other information on the PDP or parallel to the base of the package.
Size of other voluntary health-related representations B.01.357
D.01.001.2
If a food package is required to display a nutrition symbol, the size of other health-related declarations, statements, claims, logos, symbols, seals of approval or marks present on the PDP must not exceed a type size of:
  • 1x the height of the letters within the nutrition symbol, if the representation refers to a nutrient present in the symbol, such as a "reduced in sodium" claim.
  • 2x the height of the letters within the nutrition symbol, if the representation does not refer to a nutrient present in the symbol, such as a "source of fibre" claim.

3. Nutrient content claims

Health Canada is removing the table of nutrient content claims following section B.01.513 and is incorporating it by reference into the Regulations 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 amending other nutrient content claims and health claims, such as:

These changes are described in the Notice of Modification: Incorporating by Reference the "Nutrition Labelling - Table of Permitted Nutrient Content Statements and Claims" (Ref. No. NOM/ADM-NCC-2022-1).

These amendments will ensure that these claims are consistent with the 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.

There are certain prohibitions on the use of nutrient content claims on foods required to carry a nutrition symbol [B.01.503(1.1), B.01.508(2), and B.01.509(2)]. If a food package is required to display a nutrition symbol, the use of nutrient content claims related to saturated fat, sugars or sodium, as set out in the Table of Permitted Nutrient Content Statements and Claims, are prohibited on the PDP. These prohibitions do not apply to "reduced in" nutrient content claims. This is to allow foods that have been formulated or modified to contain less of a nutrient of concern, and which may still be required to display a nutrition symbol, to be distinguished from the reference food.

The "unsweetened" claim is prohibited on the PDP of foods displaying a "high in sugars" nutrition symbol. Additionally, the representation that a food is for use in a sodium-restricted diet is prohibited on the PDP of foods displaying a "high in sodium" nutrition symbol.

4. High-intensity sweetener labelling

Regulatory sections: B.01.008.1, B.01.008.2, B.01.010.3, B.01.010.4, B.01.014, B.01.023, and B.01.467

Health Canada has repealed the following extra 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; and
  • 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, these changes will bring consistency to the labelling of all sweeteners in Canada. Foods sweetened with aspartame are still required to include a statement to the effect that aspartame contains phenylalanine, or a statement warning individuals with phenylketonuria that the food contains phenylalanine. This statement must now 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. Definition and references to fully hydrogenated oils

Regulatory sections: B.01.001(1), table to B.01.009(1), B.01.009(4)(b), B.09.011, B.09.013, B.09.016, B.14.006, B.21.009, and 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, which came into effect on September 17, 2018, Health Canada is making the following amendments to the FDR:

  • removing references to PHOs;
  • adding a definition for "fully hydrogenated" and
  • replacing all references to "hydrogenated oils" with "fully hydrogenated oils"

6. Addition of vitamin D to foods

Regulatory sections: B.08.003-B.08.005, B.08.007, B.08.010-B.08.014, B.08.016-B.08.020, B.08.023, B.08.026, B.08.029, and B.09.016

Health Canada has increased the amount of vitamin D required to be in cow's milk and margarine, and the amount permitted to be in goat's milk, to help bring the vitamin D intakes of people living in Canada closer to recommended intake levels that were updated in 2011. Under these new Regulations, this will be 2 µg/100 mL for milks and 26 µg/100 g for margarine. This is approximately twice the previous requirement.

7. Coming into force and transitional provisions

These Regulations come into force upon publication in the Canada Gazette, Part II.

The amendments related to front-of-package labelling, nutrient content claims, vitamin D fortification and the phenylalanine statement are subject to a transition period that ends December 31, 2025. There is no transition period for the requirements related to PHOs because the prohibition on their use came into effect on September 17, 2018.

The transitional provisions for the different components of these amendments (e.g., front-of-package nutrition labelling, nutrient content claims, high-intensity sweetener labelling, and addition of vitamin D to foods) are independent of one another. This means that implementation of any requirement within a component (e.g., applying the new high-intensity sweetener labelling requirements to prepackaged cookies that contain aspartame) during the transition period will trigger implementation of all requirements within that component but will not trigger implementation of requirements in other components (e.g., FOP labelling). Manufacturers must comply with the requirements for all components of these amendments by the end of the transition period.

Related Information

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: