2 July 2019
Canada Considering Various Amendments to Food Labelling Requirements
Canadian authorities are seeking input by 4 September on a proposal to simplify and reduce the duplication of food labelling requirements by harmonising certain food commodity-specific requirements and repealing others. A press release by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency states that the proposed requirements would make information on food labels clearer, improving the ability of consumers to read and understand labels and compare products and enabling them to obtain useful product information such as where imported food comes from, what the food contains, and how long the quality of the food will last.
Among other things, the proposed amendments would require contact information (e.g., telephone, email, postal or website) of the food business to be indicated on the label for consumers to be able to seek more information about a product or to make a complaint. Currently, industry is required to declare the physical location of the food establishment on labels but this may not allow a consumer to contact the responsible food business. Industry would be given the flexibility to choose a method of communication suited to their particular business.
Currently, mandatory declaration of a country of origin only applies to certain imported food commodities (e.g. meat, dairy and fish products), while other wholly imported foods may use “imported by” or “imported for” on the label along with the name and address of the Canadian dealer. However, Canadian authorities are proposing to require the country of origin to be declared on all wholly imported foods (i.e., foods that are not transformed in Canada).
Moreover, the proposed amendments would provide consumers with clear and consistent information that declares how long the quality of food products will be maintained under certain conditions. They would also require any foods declaring a best before date or expiration date to provide storage instructions if needed to support the validity of these date marks. Storage instructions would have to be provided if required to support the integrity of the pre-packaged food on products exempt from date marking.
Finally, the proposed amendments would improve the legibility of the information on the label for consumers by setting minimum type heights for mandatory information. Information would also be required to be displayed with uniform colour, adequate contrast, and not be obscured or crowded by other information on the label or packaging. In addition, the proposal would provide consistent location requirements for certain information. For example, the country of origin would have to be grouped with the dealer name and address, and storage instructions would have to be on the front of the package or grouped with the list of ingredients.