Food Law: Health Canada targets saturated fat, sugars, and sodium with its new FOP labelling regulations
By Laura GomezRegulation Editor pick Food labels food law Health Canada
On June 30, 2022, the health minister announced the long-anticipated front-of-package (FOP) nutrition labelling regulations. These regulations will require certain prepackaged foods to display the FOP nutrition symbol, with manufacturers given until January 1, 2026, to change their labelling. While finalizing FOP labelling was part of the Minister of Health’s 2021 mandate letter, the timing is not ideal, as these regulations will trigger costly label changes for the food industry at a time when Canadians are already facing higher prices for many foods.
Under the new regulations, Health Canada announced that most prepackaged foods meeting or exceeding certain daily value levels of saturated fat, sugars and/or sodium will be required to display the FOP nutrition symbol. On the same day as the announcement, Health Canada released examples of the finalized symbol. The symbol consists of a black and white magnifying glass and accompanying text in English and French and must be located on the front, upper right half of the label.
The regulations form part of Health Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy, with the intent to make it easier for Canadians to make informed food choices by drawing attention to important information Canadians should consider as they are buying groceries. The symbol is intended to compliment the Nutrition Facts table (NFt) displayed on the back of food packages.
Health Canada’s backgrounder provided the following details regarding those foods that will require the FOP nutrition symbol:
- General prepackaged foods that meet or exceed 15 per cent of the daily value of saturated fat, sugars or sodium (e.g. deli meats, soups, frozen desserts or puddings).
- Prepackaged foods with a small reference amount (meaning the amount of food a person typically consumes in one sitting) that meet or exceed 10 per cent of the daily value of saturated fat, sugars or sodium (e.g. pickles, salad dressings, cookies or breakfast cereals).
- Prepackaged main dishes with a reference amount greater than or equal to 200 grams that meet or exceed 30 per cent of the daily value of saturated fat, sugars or sodium (e.g. frozen lasagna, meat pie or pizza).
Health Canada’s announcement also indicated the regulator has decided to exempt certain foods from the requirement to display the FOP nutrition symbol, including:
- Foods that have recognized health protection benefits, including fresh, frozen, canned or dried fruits and vegetables; two per cent and whole milk; eggs; foods with a healthy fat profile, such as vegetable oils, nuts and fatty fish; and any combination of these foods as long as they do not include ingredients that contain saturated fat, sugars and/or sodium.
- Foods that are a source of nutrients that are not readily available in other foods and that most Canadians do not get enough of, such as cheese and yogurt, which contain calcium and are made from dairy products.
- Foods that are formulated to meet the needs of specific populations, such as rations for military personnel use.
In addition, Health Canada’s backgrounder identified the following technical and practical exemptions:
- Foods that do not require an NFt.
- Raw, single-ingredient ground meats and poultry.
- Foods not sold directly to consumers and foods in very small packages (e.g. coffee creamers).
- Foods on which a symbol would be redundant (e.g. sugar, butter or table salt).
The food industry will be given until January 1, 2026, to make these changes. The delayed coming into force is meant to reduce the immediate compliance costs and allow industry to plan for the changes (as a shorter coming into force could have easily doubled estimated compliance costs). Even so, this change will represent a significant cost investment for those companies in food product segments specifically targeted by the regulations.
Laura Gomez is an Ottawa-based Gowling WLG partner who advises on food law and has been recognized in both The Best Lawyers in Canada and the Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://gowlingwlg.com/en/sectors/food-beverage/global/.
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