SAFEGUARDS | Food NO. 190/16

SafeGuardS Lemon Lime

On November 14 2016, Health Canada issued a proposal to require mandatory front of packing labeling for foods that are a public health concern, such as sugars, sodium or saturated fat [1]. As part of this proposal they are proposing updating certain label claims and sweetener information. At the same time, Health Canada issued a proposal to ban partially hydrogenated oils [2].

Mandatory Front-of Packaging Labeling 

Health Canada is proposing mandatory front of packaging labeling for products that are high in sugars, sodium or saturated fat. There proposed threshold for this labeling is as follows:

Nutrient Prepackaged food for young children 1 to less than 4 Prepackaged food (15% of the DV*) Prepackaged meals (30% of the DV)
High in sodium 225 mg or more per reference amount and serving size 345 mg or more per reference amount and serving size 690 mg or more per reference amount and serving size
High in saturated fat 1.5 g or more per reference amount and serving size 3 g or more per reference amount and serving size 6 g or more per reference amount and serving size
High in sugars 7.5 g (rounded to 8 g) or more per reference amount and serving size 15 g or more per reference amount and serving size 30 g or more per reference amount and serving siz

*DV (Daily Value)

For those foods with a reference amount equal to or less than 30g or 30ml such as condiments, cookies, bars, and coffee creamer, the threshold level would be determined based on 50g or 50ml (except for margarines and salad dressings with less than 30% total fat as saturated and trans fat which would not be required to make this adjustment).

Exempt from this requirement are those items in very small packages, such as one bite confections, small individual packages usually served in restaurants such as coffee creamers, foods produced and prepackaged by retailers, and alcoholic beverages which are usually exempt from displaying the nutrition facts table. Health Canada is also proposing to exempt prepackaged sugar and salt.

Health Canada is proposing four different graphic presentations of this front of package labeling.

Health Canada graphic presentations of package labeling

Proposed Change for Nutrient Content Claim and Other Nutrient-Related Statements

Some of these proposed changes are to align claims with this proposal and others are related to the 2015 proposed nutrition facts panel changes. Some of the claims changes that Health Canada is proposing are that the ‘no added sugars’ and ‘unsweetened’ claims be aligned with the meaning of added sugars, and that the new definition of sugar-based ingredients would not be permitted to be used on fruit juices that meet the threshold level of ‘high in sugars’. New claims of ‘low in sugars’ and ‘lightly sweetened’ would be established. Quantitative statements such as 0 g of trans fats would have to be aligned with the ‘free of trans fatty acid’ claim. 

High Intensity Sweetener labeling

Currently, if the high intensity sweeteners aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame-potassium or neotame are used in a product this information must be placed on the principal display panel in type size the same as the net content statement, and the amount per serving of the sweetener is required to be declared. Health Canada is proposing to remove these two requirements for these sweeteners to align this with the requirements of United States, European Union, United Kingdom and Australia/New Zealand. Products with aspartame would still be required to have the phenylalanine warning.

Ban of Partially Hydrogenated Oils

Health Canada is also proposing to ban partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) because of the trans fat risk that this ingredient presents. Health Canada has defined PHOs as oils or fats not completely saturated and with an Iodine Value of greater than 4. They are asking if the industry can remove these oils from the food supply in a 12 month period. They have noted that the US FDA has banned these oils and have notified companies to reformulate by 2018 and that other countries such as Denmark, Austria and Hungary have regulations that restrict the use of these oils.

What Does This Mean For The Food Industry?

As in many other countries the Canadian government is taking the initiative to help restrict food products deemed too high in nutrients or ingredients considered to be of public concern, and to encourage products that are considered to be good for the population in order to reduce diseases associated with obesity and other related health issues. Since there is no consistency between each country’s labeling approach one must rely on food labeling experts that know 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.

For enquiries, please contact:

James Cook
Food Scientific and Regulatory Affairs Manager

t: +01 973 461 1493

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