Labelling Requirements for Fats and Oils

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Table of Contents

Overview

This section provides information on the labelling requirements for fats and oils. Certain fats and oils have prescribed standards in Division 9 of Part B of the Food and Drug Regulations. Fats and oils are subject to the Food and Drugs Act (FDA), the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR), the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act (CPLA) and Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations (CPLR). In addition, provincial regulations may also have labelling requirements for fats and oils that apply to products sold in that province.

The requirements detailed in the following sections are specific to fats and oils. They are in addition to the requirements summarized in the core labelling and claims and statements pages of the Industry Labelling Tool that apply to all prepackaged foods.

Common Name – Fats and Oils

For fat and oil products that meet one of the standards prescribed in Division 9 of the FDR, the name appearing in bold-face type in the FDR is the appropriate common name of that product.

Where there is no specific standard for a fat or oil in the FDR or other federal regulations, other national or international standards are referred to in order to determine an appropriate common name. For example, if there is a specific definition for a fat or oil in a Codex Standard, the Codex defined name of the fat or oil (including one of its acceptable synonyms) would be an acceptable common name of the food. In order to use the Codex defined name of the food, the fat or oil is expected to meet the compositional requirements for it as set out in the Codex standard.

For more information, including placement, language and type size of common name, refer to Common Name.

Common Name in List of Ingredients

Fats and oils used as ingredients in foods must be declared by their common name in the list of ingredients or, where there is a provision, by a class name. Refer to the List of Ingredients - Fats and Oils for more information.

Single Source Vegetable Oils

The common name of a vegetable oil that contains only one oil must be the specific name of the one oil present, i.e., "(naming the source) oil". For example, the common name of 100% canola oil must be "canola oil". The general term "vegetable oil" is not an acceptable common name by itself, although it may appear in addition to "canola oil".

For information on the declaration of single or multi-source vegetable oils in the list of ingredients, see Single or Multi-Source Vegetable Oils.

Multi-Source Vegetable Oils

"Vegetable oil" is an acceptable common name for an oil that contains more than one type of vegetable oil (and no other types of oil).

For information on the declaration of single or multi-source vegetable oils in the list of ingredients, see Single or Multi-Source Vegetable Oils.

Modified or Hydrogenated Oils

When a single oil has been modified or hydrogenated, the common name on the principal display panel and in the list of ingredients must include the word "modified" or "hydrogenated", as appropriate, e.g., "hydrogenated canola oil", "hydrogenated palm kernel oil", etc.

When two or more vegetable oils are present and one or more of them has been modified or hydrogenated, the common name on the principal display panel and in the list of ingredients must include the word "modified" or "hydrogenated", as appropriate, e.g., "modified vegetable oil", "hydrogenated vegetable oil", "modified palm kernel oil", etc. [B.01.010 (3)(a), Items 13 and 14, FDR].

Modified Oil Mixtures

The common name for mixtures of regular and modified vegetable oils can be "modified vegetable oil". Alternatively, a common name can be used which incorporates the individual ingredients of the product. For example, a mixture of 95% canola oil and 5% modified sunflower oil could be called either "modified vegetable oil" or "canola oil and modified sunflower oil".

Interesterified Fats

Since interesterification is not hydrogenation or modification, the FDR do not specifically require that "interesterification" be declared in the common name of the product. However, the CFIA encourages the use of the common name "interesterified (naming the vegetable oil)" unless the final food meets the standard for shortening [B.09.011, FDR]; in that case, the common name must be shortening.

Oils with Modified Nutritional Profiles

Some oils have been developed with nutritional profiles that differ from the traditional oil made from the same plant source. In most cases, these foods are subject to Health Canada's novel food assessment process. See Genetically Modified (GM) Foods and Other Novel Foods for more information.

Common names must accurately reflect the nature of the food. As such, an acceptable common name for an oil with a modified nutritional profile includes:

  • the plant source of the oil
  • the nutritional difference from the traditional oil

Examples: High oleic sunflower seed oil, Low linolenic acid soybean oil

Specifications for oils are outlined in various standards such as the Food and Drug Regulations and the Codex Standard for Named Vegetable Oils - PDF (298 kb). These specifications can be used to determine if the nutritional profile of a modified oil falls outside of the range of the traditional oil from the same plant source.

When there is a nutritional difference from the traditional oil, this needs to be reflected in the common name. Representations in the common name that characterize the amount of a fatty acid in vegetable oil are generally permitted - for example "High Oleic (naming the source) Oil" [B.01.502 (2)(i), FDR]. There may be more than one way to describe the nutritional difference in the common name, such as when the content of more than one fatty acid has changed (e.g. one fatty acid is increased and another has decreased). Note that in some cases, such as for high oleic acid sunflower seed oil, there is a Codex standard for the modified oil as well.

This type of common name (e.g. "high oleic (naming the source) oil") would trigger a declaration of the amount of fatty acid in grams per stated serving size outside the Nutrition Facts table [B.01.301 (1), FDR]. See Modified Fatty Acid Content Oil for information on Nutrition Labelling requirements when a representation in the common name characterizes the amount of a fatty acid.

Product Specific Common Names

Canola-quality Oil Derived from Brassica juncea

The common name "canola oil" is acceptable on the label of oil produced from low erucic acid Brassica juncea.

[Note: there are other types of Brassica juncea that are considered mustard plants and a source of mustard oil].

The Codex Standard for Named Vegetable Oils - PDF (298 kb) recognizes Brassica juncea as a source of low erucic acid rapeseed oil in the "Standard for Named Vegetables Oils", as follows:

2.1.13 - Rapeseed Oil - (Low Erucic Acid) - (low erucic acid turnip rape oil; low erucic acid colza oil; canola oil) is produced from low erucic acid oil-bearing seeds of varieties derived from the Brassica napus L., Brassica rapa L. and Brassica juncea L., species.

As there is no prescribed name for the oil of this plant in the Food and Drug Regulations or any other federal legislation, any of the names prescribed in the Codex Standard would be acceptable.

This approach is consistent with CFIA's Seed Program, which recognizes the name "Canola quality, Brassica juncea" for this plant and lists it under "canola" on the website index of varieties registered in Canada. This approach is also consistent with CFIA's Feed Section with respect to the meal derived from Brassica juncea.

This product has gone through a novel food assessment by Health Canada.

Flavoured Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Flavoured extra virgin olive oil could be described using the principles for Modified Standardized Common Names if the flavour is added as an ingredient and not used in its production. If used in the production of the extra virgin olive oil, the oil would be adulterated and would not meet the standard.

Acceptable modified common names for flavoured extra virgin olive oil include:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil with [Flavour/Seasoning/Ingredient Name] Flavouring;
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil with [Flavour/Seasoning/Ingredient Name]; or
  • [Flavour/Seasoning/Ingredient Name] Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

The common names listed above are acceptable because they are modified with the additional ingredient and it is clear that the product is not just extra virgin olive oil.

High Oleic Sunflower Seed Oil

The common name "high-oleic sunflower oil" is acceptable for an oil that meets the standard for that product in the Codex Standard for Named Vegetable Oils - PDF (298 kb).

See Modified Fatty Acid Content Oil and Oils with Modified Nutritional Profiles for more information on the labelling requirements when a representation in the common name characterizes the amount of a fatty acid.

Liquid Shortening

The common name "Liquid Shortening" is an acceptable common name for products that function as shortenings but that are in liquid form, rather than in "semi-solid" form as described in the standard for shortening.

Medium Chain Triglycerides

Medium chain triglycerides may be used as foods or food ingredients. When sold as a food, the acceptable common name is "Medium Chain Triglycerides". The abbreviation "MCT" is not acceptable. A label declaration of the source of the medium chain triglycerides, preferably on the principal display panel, is also recommended to alert allergic or sensitive individuals, e.g., "modified coconut oil".

Mid-Oleic Sunflower Oil

The common name "mid-oleic sunflower oil" is acceptable for an oil that meets the standard for that product in the Codex Standard for Named Vegetable Oils - PDF (298 kb).

For information on mid-oleic sunflower oil that has gone through a Health Canada novel food assessment, see Health Canada's page on Approved Products.

See Modified Fatty Acid Content Oil and Oils with Modified Nutritional Profiles for more information on the labelling requirements when a representation in the common name characterizes the amount of a fatty acid.

Olive Pomace / Residue Oil

Acceptable common names for oil derived from olive residues are "Olive Pomace Oil" and "Olive Residual Oil" (In French, "Huile de Grignons d'Olive" and "Huile de Residus d'Olive", respectively). This is based on usages sanctioned by certain foreign governments and by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The term "Sansa Oil / Huile de Sansa" is not acceptable.

Palm Olein, Palm Stearin and Palm Superolein

Palm olein, palm stearin and palm superolein are produced from the fractionation of palm oil. When these oils are sold singly as a food, Palm Olein, Palm Stearin and Palm Superolein are the designated common names of these fatty acid modified oils (see Codex Standard for Named Vegetable Oils - PDF (298 kb)). All other fractions of palm oil should be called "modified palm oil" when sold as a food.

Vegetable Diacylglycerol Oil

Vegetable diacylglyceride oil (DAG oil) is vegetable oil that has been formulated to contain more than 80% diglycerides. The common name of a vegetable diacylglycerol oil should be "Vegetable diacylglycerol oil" or "(naming the source) diacylglycerol oil".

For information on vegetable diacylglycerol oil that has gone through a Health Canada novel food assessment, see Health Canada's page on approved products.

List of Ingredients - Fats and Oils

The same list of ingredients requirements and exemptions that apply to all foods also apply to fats and oils. Refer to list of ingredients for more information.

Certain fats and oils, when declared in the list of ingredients, are required to use specific mandatory common names. See Mandatory Common Names for Ingredients and Components for more information.

There are other fats and oils, when declared in the list of ingredients, that may optionally be listed using collective or class names. See Class/Collective Names for Ingredients and Components for more information.

A number of fat and oil products, when used as ingredients in foods, are usually exempt from declaring components in the list of ingredients. These include margarine, shortening, lard, and, in certain situations, standardized oils. See Ingredients that Generally Do Not have to Declare their Components for more information.

Single or Multi-Source Vegetable Oils

In general, when a single source of "(naming the source) oil" is used as an ingredient in another food, it may be listed in the list of ingredients either specifically by name, e.g., "canola oil", or as "vegetable oil".

Also, when vegetable oil containing more than one kind of vegetable oil is used as an ingredient in another food, it may be listed in the list of ingredients as "vegetable oil".

However, there are two exceptions to the ingredient list common names mentioned above:

  • if the oil is an ingredient of a cooking oil, salad oil or table oil, the oil must be specifically named in the ingredient list, e.g., "canola oil", and the general term "vegetable oil" is not acceptable [B.09.010, FDR]; or
  • if the vegetable oil is coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, peanut oil or cocoa butter, the oil must be specifically named in the ingredient list, and the general term "vegetable oil" is not acceptable [B.01.010 (3)(b) Item 1, FDR].

Declaration of both Regular and Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil

Hydrogenated vegetable oil must be declared as "hydrogenated" plus "vegetable oil" or "hydrogenated (naming the vegetable oil)" in the list of ingredients [B.01.010 (3)(a), FDR]. In order to meet the regulation intended to inform consumers that the oil may have been hydrogenated within a 12-month period [B.01.011(1), FDR], when using either a vegetable oil or a hydrogenated vegetable oil, the following declarations are acceptable in the list of ingredients:

  • "(Naming the vegetable oil) (may have been hydrogenated)" / "(Naming the vegetable oil) (peut avoir été hydrogénée)"; or
  • "(Naming the vegetable oil) (may be hydrogenated)"/ "(Naming the vegetable oil) (peut être hydrogenée)"

Note: As per section B.01.011(1) of the FDR, ingredients must be listed in descending order of the proportion by weight in which they will appear during the next 12-month period. If it is more likely that "hydrogenated canola oil" will be present in the product, the above declarations would not be acceptable. Instead, a declaration such as "hydrogenated canola oil or canola oil" would have to be used.

Modified Oil Mixtures as an Ingredients

When the common name "modified vegetable oil" is used, a list of ingredients naming the individual oils is also required.

When a common name that includes all of the oils in a mixture is used, such as "canola oil and modified sunflower oil", it is considered satisfy both the common name and list of ingredients requirements. This means that a separate list of ingredients is not required, providing there are no other ingredients than the oils mentioned.

Medium Chain Triglycerides

When medium chain triglycerides are added as an ingredient of foods, the acceptable common name in the list of ingredients must reflect the source of the medium chain triglycerides, e.g., "modified coconut oil" when fractionated coconut oil is the source. Refer to the Food and Drug Regulations, section B.01.010 (3)(a), Items 13, 17, 18 and 19, for other prescribed names. It is recommended that the words "medium chain triglycerides" be shown in brackets after the ingredient to identify the product of the modification, e.g., "modified coconut oil (medium chain triglycerides)".

Shortening as an Ingredient

Shortening containing vegetable oil or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil must be listed in the list of ingredients of a food as "vegetable oil shortening" (unless it contains one of the fats that must be mentioned by name, e.g. coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, cocoa butter, peanut oil). Shortening containing lard should be called "lard shortening".

Shortening does not have to be qualified in the list of ingredients as "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated".

Sprayed Dried Shortening as an Ingredient

Sprayed dried shortening is an unstandardized food which cannot be listed as a vegetable oil shortening but as a "sprayed dried shortening preparation" in the list of ingredients. All of the components must be listed.

Use of Adjectives and Descriptive Phrases to Describe Nutrient Content

It is generally not acceptable to use adjectives and descriptive phrases that describe or imply nutrient content characteristics of an ingredient in the list of ingredients, e.g., "unhydrogenated vegetable oil". "Non-hydrogenated" and "unhydrogenated" are considered implied "free of trans fatty acid" claims. For more information see Implied Nutrient Content Claims.

See Additional Information in the List of Ingredients for further details.

Nutrition Labelling - Fats and Oils

Modified Fatty Acid Content Oil

Some oils include a reference to the fatty acid content in the common name, such as "high oleic [naming the source] oil".

Section B.01.402 (4) of the FDR states that, "If the label of a prepackaged product, or any advertisement for the product that is made or placed by or on the direction of the manufacturer of the product, contains a representation, express or implied, that includes information that is set out in column 1 of the table to this section, that information shall also be in the nutrition facts table."

It is important to pay close attention to the wording of the item in column 1 when determining if additional information is triggered in the Nutrition Facts table (NFt) by section B.01.402 (4) of the FDR. For example, item 8 of the table following B.01.402 states "amount of monounsaturated fatty acids" in column 1. The term "high" in "high oleic [naming the source] oil" is considered to imply an amount. In addition, information in the list of ingredients is considered a "representation".

Therefore when "high oleic (naming the source) oil" is represented anywhere on the label, including in the list of ingredients, the requirements are as follows:

  • The amount of monounsaturated fatty acids is required as additional information in the NFt as per B.01.402(4), as high oleic is an implied representation of the monounsaturated fatty acid content.
  • Declaring the monounsaturated fatty acid content then triggers the declaration of omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturates in the NFt as per B.01.402(3).

Note: If a product is exempt from carrying a NFt as per section B.01.401 (2) of the FDR, this exemption would remain as per [B.01.401 (3)(e)(i)] if there is no reference to the fatty acid content outside of the list of ingredients on the label.

For more information on the common name of these oils, refer to Oils with Modified Nutritional Profiles.

Voluntary Claims & Statements

Composition Claims

"Extra Virgin" Designation

Currently, there are no definitions for "extra virgin" applicable to any vegetable oil except for olive oil. Quality specifications for "extra virgin" olive oil exist in the trade standards for olive oil issued by the International Olive Oil Council and by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These standards require, among other things, that the extra virgin olive oil must be cold pressed, does not contain any refined olive oil, and possess' superior quality based on chemical composition and sensory characteristics.

The Codex Standard for Edible Fats and Oils - PDF (132 kb) does not have a definition for "extra virgin" oils; it only has standards for "virgin" and "cold pressed" oils. Therefore, vegetable oils other than olive oil may use the term "virgin" or "cold pressed" if they meet the criteria for these quality designations.

Because there are no internationally recognized standards that define "extra virgin" for other vegetable oils, the use of the term "extra virgin" is only acceptable for olive oil.

Oil Content Claims on Margarine

The claim "contains (naming the percentage) (naming the oil)" in advertisements for margarine should always be based on the percentage of oil by weight of the total product. When one type of oil is named, all the oils used in making the margarine should be named. For example, if a margarine is made from a mixture of corn oil, cotton seed oil and soybean oil, it would be considered misleading to refer only to the corn oil content in an advertisement for the margarine. On the other hand, the mixture of oils could be correctly referred to as "vegetable oils".

Use of the Term Hydrogenated in Claims

It would be considered misleading for a product to claim that it is, for example, "popped in 100% corn oil", if it is actually popped in hydrogenated corn oil. The claim must appropriately state the oil used and should read, in this instance, "popped in hydrogenated 100% corn oil".

Health Claims

Heart Symbols

Heart symbols are often found on the labels of fat and oil products. Refer to Heart Symbols and Heart Health Claims for more information.

Unsaturated Fat and Blood Cholesterol Lowering Claims

The list of vegetables oils containing more than 80% of fat as unsaturated fat lists the oils that can be used to make the approved "Unsaturated Fat and Blood Cholesterol Lowering" claims found on Health Canada's website. Please note this list is not all inclusive and may be updated.

Vegetable oils containing more than 80% of fat as unsaturated fat based on the online Canadian Nutrient File version 2010 (accessed January 16, 2012) are:

  • Almond
  • Apricot kernel
  • Avocado
  • Canola
  • Corn
  • Flaxseed (linseed)
  • Hazelnut
  • Grapeseed
  • Poppyseed
  • Safflower, linoleic (70% and over)
  • Safflower, oleic (70% and over)
  • Sesame
  • Soybean
  • Sunflower, linoleic (less than 60%)
  • Sunflower, linoleic (60% and over)
  • Sunflower, oleic (70% and over)
  • Walnut

Food products containing one or more of the above-mentioned oils as the only source of fat for the product would qualify as containing more than 80% of fat as unsaturated fat.

Note: Although olive oil is expected to contain more than 80% of fat as unsaturated fat in most cases, it has not been included in this list because, based on Codex Standard for Named Vegetable Oils - PDF (298 kb), some olive oil might contain saturated fat in excess of 20%. If a company uses the claim on a product they must be able to provide sufficient evidence upon request to demonstrate that the olive oil in use always meets the 80% minimum of fat as unsaturated fat.

Related Information

Information Letters

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