Labelling of Trans Fatty Acids


What is trans fat?

Health Canada's "Fact Sheet on Trans Fats" describes the fatty acids that make up fats in foods, including trans fats and saturated fats. It talks about what dietary fats are, why trans and saturated fats are an issue, where trans fats come from, what the main dietary sources of trans fats are, how to reduce trans fat intake, and what is being done to reduce trans fats in food.

Does trans fat have to be declared in the Nutrition Facts table?

The Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) specifically prescribe what information must be displayed on a label. The trans fatty acid content of a food is one piece of core nutrition information that is required to be declared in a Nutrition Facts table.

Where and how do trans fats have to be declared in the Nutrition Facts table?

Nutrition Facts
    Nutritional Facts

The FDR specifically prescribe where and how trans fat nutrition information must be displayed on a label. "trans" must be shown indented underneath the "Fat" declaration, in the same section as the "Saturated fatty acid" declaration. Within this section, "Saturated" is shown above "trans". A horizontal rule separates the section from "Fat" above it and "Cholesterol" below it.

Both the "trans" content and the "Saturated" content are expressed in grams, immediately following the words "Saturated" and "trans" . In addition, the sum of "Saturated + trans" is expressed as a percentage of the Daily Value in a column on the right side of the Nutrition Facts table.

Can nutrient content claims be made for trans fats?

Three nutrient content claims can be made on a label or in an advertisement for a food with respect to its trans fatty acid content:

  • Free of trans fatty acids,
  • Reduced in trans fatty acids,
  • Lower in trans fatty acids.

Prescribed wording for these three claims and the conditions that the food must meet in order to make them are set out in the table following B.01.513 FDR, items 22 to 24; and Trans fatty acid claims. Note that the conditions for the claims regarding trans fatty acids are tied to the level of saturated fatty acids in the food.

Can a disease risk reduction claim be made for trans fats?

One disease risk reduction claim is permitted with respect to the trans and saturated fatty acid content of a food. The prescribed wording of the two variations of this claim is as follows:

  1. "A healthy diet low in saturated and trans fats may reduce the risk of heart disease. (Naming the food) is free of saturated and trans fats."
  2. "A healthy diet low in saturated and trans fats may reduce the risk of heart disease. (Naming the food) is low in saturated and trans fats."

These claims are permitted on a food label or in an advertisement for a food only if the food meets the conditions set out in the table following B.01.603 FDR, item 3 in Column 2 and 3.

In order to make the first claim, the food must also meet the conditions for the "free of saturated fatty acids" claim. In order to make the second claim, the food must also meet the conditions for the "low in saturated fatty acids" claim.

More information on these requirements can be found in Acceptable Disease Risk Reduction Claims and Therapeutic Claims

Is the word "trans" always shown in italics?

By scientific convention the word "trans" is italicized when it appears in sentences and general text.

For the purposes of nutrition labelling and for increased legibility on a label, the word "trans" is not italicized when it appears

  • inside the English or French Nutrition Facts table,
  • on a label or in an advertisement as part of a nutrient content claim relating to trans fat, as prescribed in Column 4 of the table following B.01.513,
  • on a label or in an advertisement as part of a diet-related health claim relating to trans fat, as prescribed in item 3 of the table following B.01.603.

Is the word "trans" written in upper or lower case letters in the Nutrition Facts table?

Both "Saturated" and "trans" are shown with the first letter in upper case and the rest of the letters in lower case in the English version of the Nutrition Facts table, in keeping with the convention of capitalizing the first letter of all nutrients in English.

The words "trans" and "saturés" are required to be shown entirely in lowercase letters in the French version of the Nutrition Facts table. This is because they are both considered to be adjectives which are not capitalized in French.

How are trans fatty acids defined in the Food and Drug Regulations?

For the purposes of nutrition labelling, the FDR define trans fatty acids as "unsaturated fatty acids that contain one or more isolated or non-conjugated double bonds in a trans-configuration".

Most of the trans fatty acids in our diet come from processed foods such as bakery products, fast foods and snack foods, which are made with shortening, margarine or oils containing partially hydrogenated oils and fats. They fall within the definition and must be included in the trans declaration in the Nutrition Facts table on the label.

Some trans fatty acids are naturally present at low levels in some foods, such as dairy products and meat. Most naturally present trans fatty acids fall within the definition and must be included in the trans declaration in the Nutrition Facts table on the label. Conjugated polyunsaturated fatty acids are not included in the label declaration of the trans content of the food because they do not fall within the trans definition. For example, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) found in dairy products and conjugated linolenic acid (CLN) should not be included in the trans fat declaration in the Nutrition Facts table. Laboratories are able to measure the trans fat content of a food, as defined in the FDR, and must not include the amount of conjugated fatty acids, such as CLA or CLN, as part of the analysis for trans fat content.

How is the amount of trans fat determined in a food?

The CFIA recommends using the Official Methods of Analysis of AOACR International, Official Method 996.06 to determine the trans fatty acid content of foods. For further information see Appendix 4 - Laboratory Issues in CFIA's Nutrition Labelling Compliance Test.

What are the rounding rules for trans fats?

The rounding rules for the trans fatty acid declaration in the Nutrition Facts table are found in the table to section B.01.401 and item 5 in Column 4 FDR.

The rounding rules for the sum of saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids declaration in the Nutrition Facts table are found in the table to section B.01.401 and item 6 in Column 4 FDR.

For more information, refer to Rounding Rules.

How must a trans fat value be rounded?

The trans fatty acid value must be rounded to the nearest 0.1 g when it is

  • less than 0.5 g; and
  • does not meet the conditions for a "free of trans fatty acids" claim (see Trans Fatty Acid claims for more information).

The trans fatty acid value must be rounded to the nearest multiple of 0.5 g when

  • the food contains at least 0.5 g but not more than 5 g trans fatty acids.

The trans fatty acid value must be rounded to the nearest multiple of 1 g when

  • the food contains more than 5 grams trans fatty acids.

When can a trans fat value be rounded to zero?

Rounding to zero (0) is possible in two situations:

  1. when the value for trans fatty acids is 0.049 g or less per serving of stated size (by statistically appropriate level of detection or through a reliable calculation), then the trans value can be rounded to zero;

    or
  2. when the food meets the conditions for making the nutrient content claim "free of trans fatty acids" set out in the table following B.01.513 FDR, item 22 in Column 2, then the trans value can be rounded to zero. Note that the conditions for "free of trans fatty acids" include additional conditions related to "low in saturated fat" set out in the table following B.01.513 FDR, item 19 in Column 2.

This means that the trans value can be rounded to zero when:

  • the food contains less than 0.2 g of trans fatty acids per reference amount and per serving of stated size (or per serving of stated size, in the case of a prepackaged meal);
  • the food contains 2 g or less of saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids, combined, per reference amount and per serving of stated size (or per 100 g, in the case of a prepackaged meal); and
  • the food provides 15% or less of energy from the sum of saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids.

Example: Is the trans fat declaration in the Nutrition Facts table permitted to be rounded to zero when a food contains 0.1 g trans fatty acids, has 1.5 g saturated fatty acids, and a total of 80 Calories per stated serving size?

(Hint: To assess this condition, add the values for the saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids together; multiply the sum by 9 Calories/gram (this is the Atwater factor where 1 gram of fat yields 9 Calories); divide by the Calories in the stated serving size; then multiply by 100 %.)

The calculation [((1.5 g + 0.1 g) x 9 /g)/80 Cal] x 100 % = 18% shows that 18% of the energy is contributed by the sum of saturated and trans fatty acids. This means that the trans fatty acid value in the Nutrition Facts table cannot be rounded to zero in this case because more than 15% of the energy value comes from the trans and saturates contained in the food. Also, the food does not meet the conditions set out in Column 2 of the table following section B.01.513, FDR, for the claims "free of trans fatty acids" and "low in saturated fatty acids".

Originally issued September 14, 2005 (Information Letter To Industry)