Bilingual Labelling
Requirements

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General

Mandatory information must be shown in both official languages, i.e., French and English. This includes core labelling requirements such as common name and other requirements found in legislation such as bilingual declaration on the Principal Display Panel (definition) for certain artificial sweeteners which can be found in the Industry Labelling Tool.

The following are exceptions and can be labelled in one official language:

  • The identity and principal place of business of the person by or for whom the prepackaged product was manufactured, processed, produced or packaged for resale, may be in either English or French [B.01.012(9), FDR; 6(2), CPLR].
  • The common name of certain alcoholic beverages, if they appear on the Principal Display Panel exactly as shown in B.01.012(10), FDR.

Exemptions

All information on the labels of the following may be in one official language only, when they meet the definitions and specific conditions outlined in the text that follows:

  • Shipping Containers
  • Specialty Foods
  • Local Foods
  • Test Market Foods

Shipping Containers

Shipping containers destined to commercial or industrial enterprises or institutions are exempt from bilingual labelling provided they are not resold to consumers at retail and all mandatory information for shipping containers is provided in one official language [B.01.012(11), FDR]. However, if the same shipping container is offered for sale to consumers at retail (e.g., at a warehouse outlet), bilingual labelling requirements apply.

Specialty Foods

A food that meets the definition of specialty food may be labelled in either official language [B.01.012(7), FDR; 6(7) CPLR].

A specialty food [B.01.012(1), FDR; 6(1), CPLR] is defined as:

  1. A food that has special religious significance, and is used in religious ceremonies or,
  2. An imported food that
    • is not widely used* by the population as a whole in Canada, and
    • for which there is no readily available substitute that is manufactured, processed, produced or packaged in Canada and that is generally accepted as being a comparable substitute.

For example, Kosher foods for Passover and sacramental wines and host wafers, when sold to religious institutions, are considered to be examples of specialty foods that have special religious significance and are used in religious ceremonies. In these situations, they are exempt from bilingual labelling requirements.

Kosher foods, in general, are not considered to be specialty food. However, Kosher foods for Passover sold at retail 40 days before and 20 days after Passover, are intended to be used in religious ceremonies and may be labelled in one official language. Outside this time frame, these foods must be labelled bilingually when sold at retail.

Likewise, host wafers and halal foods are not considered to be specialty foods when sold at retail because they are not necessarily sold for use in religious ceremonies. In these situations, these foods must be fully labelled in both official languages.

*Note: Foods must meet all the applicable conditions in the regulatory definition for specialty foods for the bilingual labelling exemption to apply. The majority of imported foods are not considered to meet the definition of "specialty food" outlined above and are therefore not eligible for the bilingual labelling exemption. This is due to the widespread availability and consumption of a variety of foods imported into Canada from various countries.

Local Foods

A local food for the purposes of the bilingual labelling exemption is defined as a food that is sold only in the local government unit in which it is manufactured, processed or packaged and/or one or more local government units that are immediately adjacent to the one in which it is manufactured, processed, produced or packaged [B.01.012(1), FDR; 6(1), CPLR].

For a local food to be exempt from bilingual labelling requirements, it must meet the above definition and the following conditions:

  • one official language is the mother tongue (definition) of less than 10 percent of the total number of residents of the local government unit in which it is sold [B.01.012 (3)(a), FDR; 6 (3)(a), CPLR]; and
  • all mandatory information is presented in the official language that is the mother tongue of at least 10 percent of the residents of the local government unit in which it is sold [B.01.012 (3)(b), FDR; 6 (3)(b), CPLR]

Local foods are not exempt from the bilingual requirements when both official languages are the mother tongue of less than 10% of the population residing in a local government unit. For example, if the mother tongue of a local government unit consists of only 9% French and 9% English, along with several different languages totalling 82% of the population, the food would be required to be labelled in both official languages, e.g., French and English [B.01.012(4), FDR; 6(4), CPLR]. The exemption also does not apply where each official language is the mother tongue for more than 10% of its residents.

Note: Local foods for the purposes of the bilingual labelling exemption are defined by regulations and are not to be confused with "local" origin claims.

An example of a local food for the purposes of the bilingual labelling exemption is a product manufactured in Burnaby (BC) and sold only in Burnaby and the local government units which are immediately adjacent to Burnaby, i.e.., in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Richmond, New Westminster, Coquitlam and Port Moody. However, as soon as this food is sold beyond the local government units adjacent to Burnaby such as West Vancouver, Delta, Surrey, and Port Coquitlam, Maple Ridge and Langley in British Columbia or Kamsack (SK) and Barrie (ON), it ceases to be a local food for the purposes of a bilingual labelling exemption and must be labelled bilingually wherever sold.

Example of a Local Food for the Purposes of the Bilingual Labelling Exemption. Description follows.
Description for Image - Example of a Local Food for the Purposes of the Bilingual Labelling Exemption.

Areas considered adjacent to the local government unit where manufactured:

  • Vancouver
  • North Vancouver
  • Richmond
  • New Westminster
  • Coquitlam
  • Port Moody

Areas not considered adjacent to the local government unit where manufactured:

  • West Vancouver
  • Delta
  • Surrey
  • Port Coquitlam
  • Maple Ridge
  • Langley

Test Market Foods

Foods which are approved for a test market may be exempt from bilingual labelling requirements. For detailed information on foods that may be considered for a test market, conditions that must be met and applying for a Notice of Intention to Test Market, refer to Test Marketing and Other Authorizations.

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