Advertising Requirements

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Advertisements (definition) directly or indirectly promote the sale of foods through broadcast (e.g. television or radio), the internet, or in print. In general, mandatory information or claims that are acceptable on a food label may also be used to advertise (definition) that food. Unacceptable label information is generally also not acceptable in advertising. Advertisements must therefore comply with the general principles for labelling and advertising and any other applicable requirements.

This section addresses information specific to advertising; for all other information regarding mandatory information or claims, refer to the Industry Labelling Tool.

Advertising to the General Public

General Principles

Definition of "General Public"

The Canadian Oxford Dictionary (2nd Ed.) defines "general public" as "the people of a community collectively, especially those not enjoying special privileges". The Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) include provisions that restrict advertising to the general public. In the context of these provisions, the persons enjoying "special privileges" as stated in the definition above would include physicians, pharmacists, and other health care professionals. Prohibitions on advertising to the general public would not include advertising to the persons with those specialized roles. As such, even if individuals with a specific condition (e.g. diabetes) are targeted, the advertisement is still considered to be for the general public if advice from a health care professional is not provided in conjunction with the advertisement.

Advertising Related to Schedule A Diseases

Subsection 3(1) of the FDA states that no person shall advertise any food, drug, cosmetic or device to the general public as a treatment, preventative or cure for any of the diseases, disorders or abnormal physical states referred to in Schedule A.

Advertising of Formulated Liquid Diets

Section B.24.100 of the FDR prohibits the advertisement of formulated liquid diets to the general public.

The rationale behind this provision is that individuals should have the benefit of medical advice before considering using a formulated liquid diet in the dietary support or management of a specific condition that exists as a result of disease, disorder or injury. The advertisement of a formulated liquid diet to medical professionals such as physicians, dieticians or pharmacists would be acceptable.

Advertising to the General Public – Examples

The following scenarios are considered advertising to the general public:

  • Print advertising (magazine, brochure, pamphlet, etc.) available to the general public, or targeted towards a specific group of lay parsons (e.g. persons with diabetes)
  • Website available to the general public, even if targeted toward health care professionals
  • Broadcast advertising, such as radio and television
  • Brochures left on a counter or retail shelf for general distribution, without discussion with a health care professional

The following scenarios are not considered advertising to the general public:

  • Print advertising (magazine, brochure, pamphlet, professional journal, etc.) targeted towards health care professionals
  • Distribution of information or advertising materials by a health care professional to a patient or client (e.g. a pharmacist providing brochures to a customer during the course of a discussion)

Advertising of Gluten-Free Foods

The advertising of gluten-free foods is prohibited as per section D.03.003 of the FDR. However, the context of the prohibition set out in this provision differs from those laid out in the above general principles.

Section D.03.003 exempts gluten-free foods from the prohibition on fortification, as long as there is no standard prescribed and the food is not advertised to the general public. As such, the intent of this section was to allow for fortification of gluten free foods for individuals with celiac disease to occur, without having to specify appropriate levels in regulation. Since individuals with celiac disease do not generally require medical assistance to determine which gluten-free foods are appropriate for them to consume, the advertisement of fortified gluten-free foods specifically to those individuals is not considered to be in violation of section D.03.003 (i.e., the advertisements would not be prohibited).

For more information on this topic, refer to the section on Advertising of Gluten-free Foods to the General Public.

Internet Advertising

Internet advertising is covered by the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act (CPLA) advertising definitions, and as such, it is subject to the same criteria as other advertising. Non-compliant internet advertisements may be subject to enforcement action by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The CFIA has jurisdiction over Canadian-based websites that advertise foods. If multiple countries have sections on a Canadian-based website, any non-compliances on the Canadian section of the site may be subject to enforcement action. Advertising on websites that are not based in Canada does not fall under CFIA jurisdiction.

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