Regulatory Affairs: Let it rain regulations
By Gary GnirssRegulation Editor pick labelling packaging Supplemented foods
A monsoon of regulatory and food labelling changes rained this summer. On July 20, 2022, the final front-of-packaging (FOP) nutrition labelling and new supplemented food regulations were published in Canada Gazette II.
FOP is everyone’s favourite subject these days. For some, it’s more of a nightmare. Prepackaged foods with more than the threshold level (15 per cent of daily value in most cases) of saturated fat, sodium, or sugar will need to place a less than pleasing symbol on the main label panel alerting consumers to the high levels of these nutrients unless an exemption is applicable. In a brilliant campaign, the meat industry got ahead of the rules and forced an exemption for ground meats.
The main reason for FOP labels is to inform consumers. Foods with FOP symbols may still be nutritious when consumed within limitations. If Canadian FOP labelling rules have the same impact as in other countries, it will change consumer purchasing behaviour.
The new FOP rules will be effective only on January 1, 2026. You can bet food product development professionals will be hard at work getting their saturated fat, sodium, and sugar content under the threshold levels.
After years of managing supplemented food temporary marketing authorizations (a.k.a. TMAL), such as those related to caffeinated energy beverages and foods with added supplements like vitamins, minerals and amino acids, final rules are in place. TMALs were needed to allow these foods to be sold legally in Canada. Existing TMALs will be respected until they expire.
The TMAL process placed an enormous burden on Health Canada, so they must be more excited than industry to get those off their plates. It has been no fun for industry either. The new rules carve out a whole new division in the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR). To be clear, these are foods, not natural health products. They will be governed and labelled as food. Besides a new supplemented food facts table, caution identifiers and warning statements may also be required.
The benefit of final rules is that as long as a manufacturer follows them, they do not need to ask for special permission to market supplemented foods. It is worthy to remember the new rules do not cover novel foods. It might include those with herbal products with no safe history of use as food.
Food product innovation
Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA’s) food product innovation (FPI) rules were published in Canada Gazette II on July 6, 2022. Those rules are essentially a watered-down version of CFIA’s grand food labelling modernization (FLM) initiative for which proposed regulations were published in June 2019. Those proposed rules, had they been finalized, would have ushered in a broad-based overhaul of food labelling including updates to naming foods, best before dates, country of origin labelling and specific rules concerning emphasized characterizing of ingredients and flavours.
CFIA rebranded FLM to FPI by stripping out much of the rules requiring mandatory label changes for most foods. Housekeeping amendments not necessarily resulting in broad-based label changes was left in FPI. However, the FPI rules consolidate many of the redundant commodity labelling rules in SFCR and FDR. They have also repealed other labelling rules, such as descriptive statements previously applicable to certain commodities, and placed the remaining descriptive statements in the document, “Descriptive Words, Expressions and Identification Names”, which is incorporated by reference (IbR) under SFCR. CFIA has also stripped container standard sizes from SFCR and incorporated those in the “Standard Container Sizes” document, also IbR. Several container sizes for most juice products were repealed too.
Amendments to FDR were also included. A new IbR document, “Common Names for Ingredients and Components,” will permit CFIA to update acceptable collective ingredient terminology more efficiently.
CFIA has, however, updated the rules concerning seasonings and, has codified new rules on how to declare seasonings when their presence in a food is two per cent or more.
CFIA has also amended the definition of a “common name”. The definition is now more prescriptive—for foods where a name is not prescribed, that name must also be, “a name that is not generic and that describes the food”. The definition was revised because CFIA repealed certain commodity specific naming and descriptive statements. CFIA still expects such commodities to be clearly differentiated from similar foods. It, however, has a far reach, as it applies to all foods that are not subject to specific common names, which effectively captures most food. The FPI rules are final. There is not transition period for these.
Beyond these updates, CFIA is still looking to complete its food labelling modernization initiative or restart that.
Gary Gnirss is a partner and president of Legal Suites Inc., specializing in regulatory software and services. Contact him at email@example.com.
This column was originally published in the August/September 2022 issue of Food in Canada.
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