Health Canada published the long-awaited amendments to the new Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) on July 20, 2022. The new regulations will require prepackaged foods to add a “high-in” symbol on the front label if the threshold meets or exceeds specified set levels for saturated fats, sodium and sugar. The directive came after the Minister of Health made an announcement on June 30 with a full compliance date of Dec. 31, 2026.
As a pillar in Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy, the new symbol requirements are among other amendments designed to promote healthy food choices and make it easier to compare similar products:
- prepackaged products deemed high in saturated fats, sugars and/or sodium with new front of package nutrition symbols
- certain high-intensity sweeteners to align with other sweeteners
- new restrictions of health claims and nutrient content claims related to saturated fats, sugars and sodium
- increasing the vitamin D fortification levels in cow’s milk, goat’s milk and margarine
Other countries, like Chile, the first country worldwide1 to implement FOP labelling, have started the review to mandate and implement WHO-recommended regulatory initiatives to address the global human and economic burden of chronic, non-communicable diseases.
Manufacturers that are required to implement the new mandates will need to adhere to rules around the size of the symbol, which is determined relative to the size of the package; location on the principal display surface; and language of the symbols. The threshold Health Canada has applied is intended to be simple, if prepared foods or processed foods and foods solely intended for children one to four years of age meet or exceed 15 per cent of the Daily Value (DV). This means that if the serving exceeds 15 per cent of the maximum daily allowance for saturated fats, salt or sugar) the high-in symbol will need to be added to the front label panel in a specified location, size and in both official languages. For prepackaged meals and dishes, the threshold is 30 per cent.
Health Canada has provided a front-of-package nutrition symbol labelling guide for industry which is intended to provide interpretation and guidance of the new regulations relating to the FOP labelling mandates. Stakeholders can provide feedback on this guide.
The guidance provides key information to affected manufacturers on threshold limits (% DV that would trigger an FOP symbol) and what constitutes a full or conditional exemptions (such as products that do not require a Nutrition Facts table or bakery products). Health Canada will be providing webinars later this year.
The BAC is continuing to engage with Health Canada to get clarity and confirmation on outstanding concerns and issues.
1. Reyes, M., Garmendia, M.L., Olivares, S. et al. Development of the Chilean front-of-package food warning label. BMC Public Health 19, 906 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-7118-1
Denise Lee is Director of Food and Nutrition Policy for BAC.