Criteria for the Nutrient Content Claim No Added Sugars

Background

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada (HC) would like to clarify the requirements respecting the nutrient content claim no added sugars, as specified in item 40 in the table following B.01.513 of the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR). Permitted wording for this claim are: no sugar added, no added sugar and without added sugar.

On January 1, 2003, Health Canada published amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations regarding nutrition labelling, nutrient content claims and diet-related health claims. Manufacturers, importers and other responsible parties had until December 12, 2005 (or for small manufacturers until December 12, 2007) to comply with the new regulations. The Food and Drugs Act and Regulations apply to all foods sold in Canada, as well as to food advertising. The amended regulations include specific compositional and labelling criteria for a restricted list of permitted nutrient content and health claims, including the no added sugars claim.

The compositional criteria a food must meet in order to carry the no added sugars claim are:

  1. the food contains no added sugars and no ingredients containing added sugars1 or ingredients that contain sugars that functionally substitute for added sugars2;
  2. the sugars content is not increased through some other means except if the functional effect is not to increase the sugars content of the food; and
  3. the similar reference food contains added sugars.

1 The term sugars means all mono- and disaccharides, including sucrose, fructose, glucose, glucose-fructose, maltose, etc.

2 Ingredients such as sweetening agents, molasses, fruit juice, honey and maple syrup that give a sweet taste to foods and may also perform other roles of sugars including thickening, texturizing, browning (Maillard reaction), etc.

These regulated criteria for the claim no added sugars are consistent with the criteria that previously existed in policy. However, the previous policy allowed for the claim no added sugars on foods containing other sweetening agents when accompanied by a disclaimer such as sweetened with (naming the sweetening agent(s)). In this situation, the food could not contain added sucrose, but could contain other sweetening agents such as honey, molasses, fruit juice, fructose, glucose or other monosaccharides or disaccharides, or sugar alcohols that were identified in the sweetened with disclaimer. This provision no longer exists in the amended Food and Drug Regulations.

As stated in the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement that accompanied the amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations published in January 2003 in Canada Gazette Part II, one objective of the amendments is to ensure that nutrient content claims are not deceptive. The no added sugar claim was frequently identified by consumers as deceptive prior to these amendments. The purpose of this claim is not to distinguish between natural and refined sugars since, from a nutritional point of view, sugars include all mono and disaccharides whether or not they have been extracted from cane or provided by fruit juices. The regulation is specifically worded to address cases such as those where cane sugar is replaced by concentrated fruit juice. This claim is of particular interest to people with diabetes who have to monitor sugar intake. A deceptive claim could have health implications.

During the development of the new Canadian nutrition labelling regulations, compatibility with the system in the United States was a key objective. While full harmonization was not possible at the time of publication, the criteria for the no added sugars claim are fairly consistent between the two countries and the intent is clearly the same. However, the U.S. rule specifically identifies concentrated fruit juice as one of several ingredients that cannot be present when a no added sugars claim is made.

Ingredients That Functionally Substitute for Added Sugars elaborates on the types of ingredients, including concentrated fruit juice and fruit juice, that are considered to contain sugars that functionally substitute for added sugars. When fruit juice or fruit juice concentrate is added to a food that would not normally contain it, the claim no added sugars is not permitted as these ingredients functionally substitute for added sugars. For example, a muffin that omits white sugar but contains concentrated apple juice does not meet the compositional criteria for the no added sugars claim. Note that other functions of sugars, e.g. thickening or bulking, do not occur in isolation of the sweetening effects and still result in sugar added for its functional properties.

Unsweetened Claim

The claim unsweetened may be used on a food provided the food meets the conditions for the claim no added sugars, as described above, and does not contain a sweetener, such as aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame-potassium or permitted sugar alcohols set out in Column I of Table IX to section B.01.100, FDR (B.01.509, FDR).

Foods with Fruit Ingredients

It has come to the attention of CFIA and HC, however, that, for some fruit based products (like fruit spread for example), the functional effect of fruit juice or concentrated fruit juice may be as a fruit ingredient as opposed to a sweetening ingredient. For these foods, the no added sugar claim may be made on the following conditions:

Fruit spreads

  1. there is a permitted sweetener present as prescribed in Table IX to section B.16.100, FDR (e.g. aspartame, sucralose, maltitol, etc.);
  2. the fruit juice or fruit juice concentrate is identified in the product's common name (e.g. strawberry and concentrated apple juice spread); and
  3. the similar reference food contains added sugars.

Note that the above conditions were established with respect to spreads that also all contained significantly lower sugar content than that of the similar reference food and that further evaluation would be required on products for which this is not the case.

Juice or blends of juices

  1. if fruit juice concentrate is the ingredient, water is present as an ingredient in an amount sufficient to reconstitute the concentrate to a single strength juice;
  2. the fruit juice or fruit juice concentrate is identified in the product common name (e.g. mango nectar with apple juice);
  3. decharacterized juice is not present, as it is considered a functional substitute for sugar as opposed to a fruit juice ingredient; and
  4. the similar reference food contains added sugars.

Conditions 1) and 2) above for both spreads and juices help to substantiate that the function of the fruit juice or concentrated fruit juice is as a fruit ingredient as opposed to a sweetening ingredient.

Fruit cocktail or other canned fruit in fruit juice

The no added sugars claim is not permitted because the fruit juice functionally substitutes for the added sugar (in the syrup). The claim is not permitted when either juice concentrate or fruit juice is present, including fruits packed in their own juice. Total sugar content of products packed in fruit juice are comparable to those packed in light syrup. As the Processed Products Regulations standard allows these products to be in syrup (water, sugar), in fruit juice or in water, only the fruit packed in water qualifies for the no added sugars claim. Methods of indicating to consumers that fruit juice is the packing medium continue to be mandatory, such as packed in (name of fruit or fruits) juice.

The CFIA will continue to evaluate other food products for which similar clarification may be required, in consultation with Health Canada.

Compliance with Canadian Regulations

It is the responsibility of all manufacturers and importers to comply with Canadian regulations. For more information, refer to the Industry Labelling Tool.

Originally issued March 27, 2006 (Information Letter To Industry)