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Health Canada Issues Nutrition Facts and Ingredient Labelling Changes

Photo: Canada issues nutrition facts and ingredient labelling changes
Photo: Health Canada Issues Nutrition Facts and Ingredient Labelling Changes

On December 14, 2016 Health Canada changed the Food and Drug Regulation.[1] This requires a change to the Nutrition Facts panel, and changes to the ingredient listing to enable easy comparison between items and provide the information consumers need to make good food choices.[2] The food industry has a transition period of five years in which to make these changes.

Changes To Nutrition Facts Table

Health Canada has made the following changes in the format of the Nutrition Facts panel.[3] They have increased the font size and also, in some foods, the amount of the serving size declaration. Calories and the caloric amount will be bigger with a bold line under it, the daily value statement location changes with “amount” being removed, Sodium and Cholesterol will be listed after protein, a daily value (DV) for sugars will be required, and the DVs for other nutrients will be updated based on current science[4]. In addition, Vitamin A and C will no longer be required, Potassium is now required to be listed and the amounts of potassium, calcium and iron are to be listed. At the end of the Nutrition Facts panel will be a footnote “5% or less is a little and 15% or more is a lot”.

Picture: Nutrition facts
Picture: Nutrition facts

Ingredients Listing

While some of the changes in the required information are designed to provide consumers with clear details of sugars and colorants, other changes being made are intended to make the ingredient and allergen listing easier to read and understand. Sugar ingredients will have to be grouped, and this grouping will be listed in order of predominance. This is to provide consumers with an idea of the added sugars in the product. Colorants will have to be listed by their individual name, such as Allura Red instead of just ‘color’.[5] There will be minimum type size and a requirement to use upper and lower case letters for ingredients. The text requirement will be for a black font on a white or neutral background. Individual items will be separated by bullet points or commas.


Picture: Ingredients listing
Picture: Ingredients listing

Serving Size

The definition of single serve packages is changing. For any package that contains up to 200% of the reference amount, then the entire package will be the serving. Serving sizes on multi-serve packages will change too. For foods that can be measured by a cup, tablespoon or teaspoon, such as yogurt, the new serving size will be based on a measure such as ¾ cup and then the corresponding metric amount in that serving. For products that come in pieces, or can be divided into pieces, the number of pieces will be the amount nearest to the metric reference amount. These changes will enable customers to compare similar items more easily. Some reference amounts will be changed to better reflect the amounts that people consume. For example, bread is typically consumed two slices at a time, so the new serving size will be reflective of what is commonly done.[6]

Health Claim Approval for Some Fruit and Vegetables

Health Canada has now approved the use of the health claims “a healthy diet rich in a variety of vegetables and fruit may help reduce the risk of heart diseases”.[7] This claim can be made on some fruits and vegetables with or without added salt, herbs, spices, seasonings and water. Sodium must be less than 15% DV. Product must have less than 0.5% alcohol. This will not be allowed on items such as potatoes, yams, cassava, plantain, mature legumes or their juices, vegetable or fruits used as condiments, jams, jellies, preserves, marmalades fruit juices/drinks, powdered vegetables or fruits and seeds of fruits known a drupe such as almonds, cashews or coconuts.

What Does This Mean For The Food Industry?

The industry has five years to plan and implement the changes, but there are advantages to making the changes more quickly for some products. Unfortunately, the changes required by Health Canada and the United States Food and Drug Administration, and changes proposed by the US Department of Agriculture are not the same. This means it will be difficult to have one labeled product ship to two countries as there is little consistency between their labeling approaches. Therefore, SGS recommends using food labeling experts who understand the difference between what is required and allowed in each country.

SGS is committed to keeping you informed of regulatory news and developments. Leveraging our global network of laboratories and food experts, SGS provides a comprehensive range of food safety and quality solutions, including analytical testing, audits, certifications, inspections and technical support. We continually invest in our world class testing capabilities and state-of-the-art technology to help you reduce risks, and improve food safety and quality. For further information please visit our website. www.foodsafety.sgs.com.

Email SGS Hong Kong Ltd. at mktg@sgs.com for enquiry or visit www.sgsgroup.com/hk.



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