Refer to Chapter 3 of this Guide for additional guidance in making claims in food advertisements. The general information is intended to help those making food claims to comply with the Food and Drug Regulations and other applicable legislation, by reviewing criteria and setting out examples of both good practices and misleading or deceptive ones.
Chapter 3 deals with appropriate use of words and images when making claims about a food product, including such issues as the honest use of comparisons and endorsements. The information applies equally to anyone making a food claim, whether in advertisements or on food labels, or other displays.
This Chapter takes a more detailed look at claims related to a food's composition and quality, and it deals briefly with appropriate methods of informing consumers about net quantity and the origin of a food.
4.2.1 Common, Coined, Trade and Brand Names [B.01.001]
"Common name" when used in reference to a food, means:
- the name of the food printed in boldface type in the Food and Drug Regulations;
- the name prescribed by any other regulation; or
- if the name of the food is not so printed or prescribed, the name by which the food is generally known.
Generally, the following principles apply.
- A food should be described in advertisements by its common name. For example, orange juice from concentrate should be described as "orange juice from concentrate" and not "orange juice". After referring to the product by its proper common name at least once in the advertisement, it is acceptable to use the generic term "juice" or the brand name for subsequent or additional references.
- Coined names, trade names, brand names or company names used as a brand name are subject to all provisions of the Food and Drugs Act and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, whether or not these names are registered or trade-marked.
- A few coined and trade names have been accepted as common names for certain unstandardized foods where these are well known to consumers due to long exposure (e.g., Pepsi-Cola). It is unlikely that coined names will be accepted for other products.
- Common names that incorporate words not justified by the composition of the food are considered misleading.
- It is misleading for names to suggest (directly or by phonetic rendering) benefits or results that are not likely to be obtained.
- A product must not use the name of another product it resembles, or of which it is an imitation or substitute. (This applies whether the name is used directly or by phonetic rendering in a manner likely to deceive.)
- The common name should not improperly suggest a place of origin (see 4.20.1 of this Guide, Geographical Terms).
- An ingredient mentioned in a common name of a food should be present in a significant proportion. If the name of an ingredient is mentioned in the common name of a product to denote the flavour of the product, this should be clear in the advertisement and on the label. (For exceptions, see 9.6.1 of this Guide, Beverages or Beverage Mixes Identified with Name of a Fruit.)
- Mixes that incorporate the name of a standard food into their common name (e.g., French dressing mix) would be expected to exhibit the characteristics of the named standard food when prepared according to directions, but would not necessarily be required to comply in all respects with the standard for the food. For example, an anti-caking agent suitable for use in unstandardized foods would be acceptable in a French dressing mix, although it would not be permitted in the standard for French dressing.
The common name of a standardized food must not be used to describe any food unless that food meets the provisions set in the standard for composition, strength, potency, purity, quality or other properties for that food.
Where a standard provides for optional ingredients, or prescribes a range regarding the amount of an ingredient or constituent that may be present in a food, the common name may be modified to indicate that an ingredient or constituent is absent or is contained at a specific level in the food (e.g., "no salt added mayonnaise" or "65% vegetable oil mayonnaise"). However, when the modification is also a nutrient content claim, all applicable criteria, including both composition and labelling requirements, must be met. For example, the common name "no salt added mayonnaise" could only be used if the food meets the criteria for "no added sodium or salt" as set out in the table following B.01.513 (see also 7.21 and Table 7-10 of this Guide).
A modified common name of a standardized food may not be used to describe a food that does not meet that standard unless the following conditions are met.
- It must always be clear to consumers that the food so described does not meet the standard.
- The consumer is told, in all respects, on the label and in advertisements, the provision(s) which the food does not meet within the standard. This information must always be in evidence in a clear and prominent manner as part of the common name on labels and in advertisements (e.g., flavoured shortening, coloured sugar).
In some cases, the modified common name of the standardized food is not sufficient to describe the differences between the food so designated and the standardized food. In cases such as "light/lite (naming the standard food)", information must be shown in a clear and prominent manner on the principal display panel of labels and in advertisements, describing in all respects how the modified food differs from the standardized food (see 7.9 of this Guide, Requirements for Comparative Claims).
Note that manufacturers do not always have the option of modifying a standardized common name, whether or not the modification is made clear on the label. For example, manufactures must, by Regulation, add Vitamin D to milk. Therefore, a product labelled "Milk with no added Vitamin D" would be illegal.
It is misleading to over-emphasize the importance, presence or absence of an ingredient or substance in a food because of its desirable or undesirable qualities, or for any other reason.
For example, it is misleading to over-emphasize the presence of wheat germ in breakfast cereal when the amount present is the amount normally found in the grain used in making the cereal. Also, it is misleading to over-emphasize the presence of butter in a cake when butter is actually the minor shortening ingredient.
In principle, any emphasis regarding the presence of an ingredient, component or substance should be accompanied by a statement regarding the amount of that ingredient, component or substance present in the food.
Food labels and advertisements should not stress (by analytical tables or otherwise), the presence of elements or substances found in minute or trace quantities. Other than as required or permitted in the Nutrition Facts table, mineral nutrients in trace quantities in foods should not be declared except in the case of mineral water, where the amount of each "mineral" present may be stated, providing this declaration is not over-emphasized (see 9.7 of this Guide, Mineral Water and Spring Water).
Care should be exercised in the use of the words "butter" and "cream" in the name of a food or in descriptions relating to that food. These words should not be used to describe a food that is or has been made, in part, of cream or butter, unless the food contains an amount of cream or butter sufficient to characterize the product.
- If butter is the sole shortening agent, the term "all butter" may be used as part of the common name (e.g., "all butter cake").
- If butter is the major shortening agent employed, the term "butter" may be used as part of the common name. However, the impression should not be created that the product contains solely "butter" as the shortening agent (e.g., "butter cake" is acceptable).
- If butter is a minor shortening agent but is still present, the term "butter" alone should not be used as part of the common name. However, "butter flavour(ed)" may be used (e.g., "butter flavoured cake") or the amount of butter present may be stated.
When it is clear that the terms "butter", "cream" or "creamy" refer to texture, form, colour, etc. and not to the butter or cream content of a food, their use may be acceptable, e.g. peanut butter, cream eggs, Bavarian cream pie, apple butter, chocolate creams.
The term "malted" must be used with care. A food is not "malted" simply because malt extract has been added. "Malted" means that the carbohydrate has been modified by suitable treatment with the diastase of malt. Unless such treatment has been given, "malt flavoured" is the appropriate term to use.
(See also Table 7-2 of section 7.6 of this Guide, Altering the Wording of Permitted Nutrient Content Claims pertaining to nutritional characteristics.)
A "negative claim" is a statement about:
- the absence of a particular ingredient, substance or class of substances in a food because the substance is not inherent to the food;
- a substance that is not present in the food either through direct addition or through carry-over; or
- a substance that has been removed from the final food.
Claims to the effect that a food does not contain an ingredient or substance must be factual and not misleading as required by subsection 5(1) of the Food and Drugs Act and section 7 of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act. Generally, a negative statement pertaining to the absence or non-addition of a substance to a food is acceptable under the conditions which follow.
a) The statement is true.
The ingredient, substance or class of substances claimed to be absent, must be totally absent and must not have been added directly to the food or to any of its ingredients. Where industry wishes to make a negative claim based on a physiologically insignificant level, the claim should be justified: appropriate research and analytical data should demonstrate both that the level is appropriate, and that any residual amount of the substance claimed to be absent is below this threshold and is declared on the label.
The maximum acceptable level is defined as:
- zero for allergens and gluten sources;
- the level of physiological insignificance such as those levels which act as the basis of nutrient free claims as described in the table following section B.01.513 of the Food and Drug Regulations (e.g., sodium free); and
- the non-detectable limit using an acceptable methodology, in cases where no physiological thresholds have been established.
Rationale: The guidelines were revised to eliminate the differentiation between "non-addition" and "inherently absent". A study by the National Institute of Nutrition (Consumer Use and Understanding of Nutrition Information on Food Package Labels, January 1992), showed consumers do not, in fact, make a distinction between subtle differences in terminology (e.g., "no preservatives added", or "contains no preservatives", or "not preserved"). The general perception is that consumers wish to know if a substance is present or if it is not, regardless of whether it is intentionally added or is present due to incidental carry-over.
Since physiologically insignificant levels for many substances are not well documented, case-by-case assessment will be required. Submissions should be made by industry, with the appropriate literature review and supporting scientific data, to Health Canada and CFIA.
b) The statement is not misleading.
Factual statements should not give an erroneous impression about the product's composition and quality.
For example, a "no added water" claim for a pasta sauce where water has been added indirectly as inherent water in another ingredient gives an erroneous impression about the product's water content as compared to other pasta sauces. To avoid misrepresentations of this kind, it is recommended that positive (rather than negative) claims be made, such as "made from fresh tomatoes".
As well, a negative statement should not create a false impression that the product is uniquely different from other similar products. For example, when a class of foods is inherently free of a substance or where it is not permitted by Regulation to contain the substance, this must be made clear. A claim that the substance is absent will be considered misleading unless it is appropriately qualified by a statement to the effect that the claim is not unique to the food but is common to all foods of the same class [5(1), FDA].
Rationale: If a claim is made that a substance is absent from a food where the Regulations do not permit it to be added or where it is inherently absent from the food and all other similar foods of the same class, it infers a false uniqueness and gives an unfair advantage to that food. It also infers that other similar foods contain the ingredient or substance.
However, the information that a substance is absent in a food may be beneficial information to individuals who wish to avoid certain substances. Therefore, negative claims are accepted, but only under circumstances which reduce the potential for misrepresentation. The conditions for making negative statements reflect labelling policies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Codex standards and comments received on Consultation Document No. 11 of the Review Committee for the Guide to Food Labelling and Advertising (1996).
For example, a "no colour added" claim for wieners suggests that other wieners may contain colour when, in fact, colour is not permitted to be added to wieners. However, it is acceptable to state: "No wieners sold in Canada contain added colour."
Similarly, beverages, other than non-alcoholic carbonated water-based flavoured and sweetened beverages and cola type beverages, such as juice, could not be labelled or advertised as "caffeine-free" (since caffeine is not permitted by Regulation to be added to this food), unless the claim is accompanied by a statement to the effect that "all juices are caffeine-free", or that a juice is "a caffeine-free food".
Conversely, as there is nothing in Regulation which prohibits the addition of colour to cookies, it would be acceptable for such an unstandardized product to carry a "no colour added" claim without the claim being accompanied by a statement such as "all cookies have no colour added", provided that no colour was added, directly or indirectly, to the product. When placed on a package of cookies, this claim does not suggest a false uniqueness to the cookies, as some cookies do contain added colour.
Compliance with this policy will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, to recognize the increasing concerns regarding food sensitivities and the presence of allergens in foods. Undeclared (i.e., carried-over) ingredients or components in a food (such as sulfiting agents or peanuts), could be the cause of serious health problems to individuals with sensitivities, particularly when consumers assume that the allergen or sensitizing agent is not present because it is not declared. In all cases, the onus remains with industry to demonstrate compliance.
Claims pertaining to the absence or non-addition of a food class such as "contains no preservatives" and "no preservatives added" are permitted where none of the preservatives found in Division 16 of the Food and Drug Regulations has been directly added or none are present due to carry-over. For example, it would be misleading to make a "no preservative" or "no preservative added" claim in bakery products if sodium propionate were added indirectly through a dough-conditioning premix.
There is no objection to claims for the absence of preservatives when the food contains naturally-occurring constituents which can provide a preservative function (e.g., naturally-occurring benzoates in cranberry juice, acetic acid in vinegar and citric acid in lemon juice, etc).
Ingredients such as cultured whey, cultured dextrose, cultured skim milk, etc., can be specifically manipulated to contain high levels of peptides and propionic, butyric and lactic acids. These ingredients can act as preservatives. If foods contain these ingredients, claims pertaining to the absence of preservatives are not appropriate. Traditional preservatives such as salt and sugar are exempt from this policy.
Rationale: Claims that preservatives have not been added to a food, or are absent from it, are permitted if these statements are factual. In cases where preservatives are present as the result of incidental carry-over, even if the amount present is below detectable limits, the claim should not be made.
For example, ascorbic acid is added to apple juice to preserve the colour of the juice during processing. It degrades to very low or insignificant levels, but despite this degradation, this additive has already performed its preservation function. Therefore, a "no preservative" claim is not considered appropriate for the final product.
Certain food additives such as ascorbic acid, acetic acid, citric acid, lecithin and tartaric acid are capable of performing a number of functions. Acetic and tartaric acids may be used as acidulants or anti-microbial agents to preserve a food. Where they are added for reasons other than preservation, and their function is clearly stated in the list of ingredients, a "no preservatives" claim is acceptable. If a non-preserving additive is carried-over into the final food by way of an undeclared component, the claim can still be made and an explanation of its function need not be stated.
Rationale: Allowance is provided in the Food and Drug Regulations for a food to contain the above substances for functions other than preservation. It is permissible to make an absence or non-addition claim provided the additives were not added for a preservative function and are not present at levels used for preservation. As well, the functions of the additives must be clearly stated in the ingredient list.
For example, ascorbic acid is a multi-functional additive which is often used in bakery products for its dough-conditioning property at levels of less than 100 ppm. In these cases, ascorbic acid is not added for its preservative function, so the claim "contains no preservatives" is acceptable, provided the function of the ascorbic acid is clearly stated, e.g., "ascorbic acid (dough conditioner)". Other examples include "lecithin (an emulsifier)" and "citric acid (acidulant)".
Note: For labelling purposes, liquid smoke is not considered to be a preservative.
Claims pertaining to the absence or non-addition of monosodium glutamate such as "contains no M.S.G.", "no M.S.G. added" and "no added M.S.G." are considered misleading and deceptive when other sources of free glutamates are present. These include hydrolysed vegetable protein, soya sauce or autolysed yeast extracts. In addition, a number of common food ingredients contain high levels of naturally-occurring free glutamates, including tomatoes and tomato juice, grapes and grape juice, other fruit juices, cheeses such as Parmesan and Roquefort, and mushrooms.
Rationale: Consumers may believe that M.S.G. is the sole source of concern in food sensitivity reactions to glutamates. This is misleading. Foods that are inherently high sources of free glutamates may also be of concern. The Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology (FASEB)*, in its report on adverse reactions to monosodium glutamate, concluded that there is no difference in the physiological response to man-made and natural glutamates.
(*Analysis of Adverse Reactions to Monosodium Glutamate (M.S.G.). Prepared for Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C., July 1995.)
For example, a claim for the absence of M.S.G. is not acceptable on a tomato-based pasta sauce unless the responsible party can prove, using an acceptable methodology, that there are no detectable glutamates in the product.
Guarantees referring to the quality of foods are generally acceptable, providing the manufacturer will support the guarantee. If there are conditions under which the guarantee is invalid, such conditions should be stated clearly.
The word "guarantee" is usually associated with an offer to return the purchase price when the consumer is not satisfied with specific characteristics or the performance of a product when these can be readily evaluated.
4.5 Fresh [5(1), FDA; 7, CPLA ]
As for all claims, the use of the term "fresh" is subject to the prohibitions contained in the Food and Drugs Act and of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act respecting misleading and deceptive representations for foods.
The context in which the term "fresh" is used will generally dictate its meaning. Accordingly, "fresh" may be used to describe the nature, the organoleptic qualities or the age of a food, or it may be used as part of a trade name or brand name.
The term "fresh" may imply that the food so described has not been processed or preserved in any way. The claim "fresh (naming the food)" should generally be used to describe a food that is not canned, cured, dehydrated, frozen or otherwise processed or preserved. The following should, however, be noted.
- Although refrigeration is a means of preserving foods, consumers generally consider refrigerated fruits, vegetables, meats and fluid milk as "fresh". The process of pasteurization is not regarded as altering the freshness of milk; consumers recognize that all fluid milk is pasteurized.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables that have been refrigerated in controlled-atmosphere storage, irradiated, waxed or washed in a mild chlorine or acid solution may be called "fresh".
- The term "fresh" may be used to distinguish fresh pasta from dehydrated pasta if the "fresh pasta" has not been treated by any means other than by refrigeration, vacuum packaging or modified atmosphere packaging.
- Meats, including poultry and fish products that have not been treated by any means, other than by refrigeration, vacuum packaging or modified atmosphere packaging to ensure their preservation, may be called "fresh".
- "Fresh sausage" made with frozen meat may be described as "fresh" [Schedule 1, Meat Inspection Regulations].
- "Fresh" should not be used as a descriptor for shell eggs on the label since the quality of eggs is described solely by a grade designated under the Canada Agricultural Products Act. "Fresh" is allowed in advertising, however, to distinguish eggs in the shell from other physical forms of eggs such as powdered, frozen and liquid whole eggs.
The claims "fresh (naming the process and food)" or "freshly (naming the process and food)" are often used to indicate that the food has been recently produced, obtained or grown. While useful indications of freshness, such claims are potentially misleading unless they are accompanied by a "packaged on" date or by an explanatory statement as to why the product is "fresh".
- Recently baked bread and other bakery products, including meat pies, may be described as "fresh" regardless of whether the product or its ingredients contain preservatives or are preserved by other means. For example, bread made with frozen dough, pie made with canned fruit and pizza made with frozen dough and preserved meat may be described as "fresh" as a result of recent preparation. Synonymous expressions such as "fresh baked", "freshly baked", "oven fresh bread", "bakeshop fresh", "fresh from the baker's oven", "freshly baked in the store", etc. may also be acceptable claims. The claim should be accompanied by a "packaged on" date or a date indicating recent preparation. In the case of broadcast advertising, a specific time (e.g., "baked fresh daily") should be included.
- While all "fresh" fruit and vegetables
are considered fresh, terms such as "orchard fresh", "valley
fresh", "garden fresh" and "fresh from the field" or
synonymous claims should only be used to describe fresh fruit and vegetables
that have been harvested and brought to the market at the earliest possible
moment (with minimal storage and within days of harvesting). For example, it is
considered misleading to advertise or label a package of fruit or vegetables as
"orchard fresh" if this produce has been subject to months of
controlled-atmosphere storage. Similarly, it would be considered misleading to
describe apples as "orchard fresh" if they are imported apples which
have spent five weeks on a freighter before reaching their destination. These
could simply be labelled as "fresh" or "fresh new crop from
(naming the country of origin)".
Rationale: The terms "farm fresh", "orchard fresh" and "garden fresh" have been used for many years to describe products shipped directly from the farm to the stores or farmers' markets. Imported produce may also be shipped to the store within days of harvesting and hence qualify for terms such as "fresh from the field".
- The term "freshly squeezed juice" or
"fresh daily" may be used to describe juice that has been recently
pressed provided the claim is accompanied by a "packaged on" or other
date indicating recent preparation. Similarly, the term "freshly
ground" is considered to mean that ground beef/poultry/fish or ground
coffee has been recently ground. The claim should be accompanied by a
"packaged on" or other date indicating recent preparation. When the
product is packaged at a place other than the retail premise from which it is
sold, this "packaged on" date is required in addition to the
mandatory durable life date and storage instructions (see 2.11 of this Guide).
Rationale: Consumers are less likely to be misled if "fresh" claims, which imply that a food was obtained or prepared recently, are further qualified with a "packaged on" date.
In addition to describing the nature and age of a food, the term "fresh" can be used to describe other product characteristics such as flavour, texture, appearance and smell. Consumers are best able to judge the merits of "fresh" when used as a sensory modifier in claims such as "fresh tasting", "fresh from the sea flavour", "fresh frozen", etc. These applications of the word "fresh" are not within the scope of these guidelines unless the impression is created, visually or otherwise, that the product is "fresh".
Trademarks, company names and fanciful names containing the word "fresh" are acceptable provided the term is used, in labelling or advertising, in such a manner that it remains clear to the consumer that "fresh" is not a characteristic of the product and that these names represent a brand. The use of "fresh" as an element of trade or brand names will be assessed on an individual basis.
The term "homemade" describes a food that is not commercially prepared. "Homemade" foods do not require further preparation. The use of a brand name or trademark symbol in conjunction with the term "homemade" is considered misleading if the food is prepared commercially. Other descriptors will be assessed on an individual basis.
The terms "homemade style", "home-style", "like homemade" may be used to describe a food that may contain mixes, in whole or in part, from commercial or private recipes. In advertising, these terms are potentially misleading when the food is portrayed in a home setting.
The claim "tastes like homemade" is left to the judgment of the consumer and is, therefore, acceptable.
Rationale: "Homemade" implies that a food is prepared in a home. Therefore, the use of the term "homemade" to refer to a food prepared in a commercial establishment, including small, artisan like establishments, is considered misleading. When a food is prepared in the style of a "homemade" food, the term must be qualified (e.g., "homemade" baked beans versus "homemade style" canned baked beans).
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