Labelling Requirements for Fats and Oils
Voluntary Claims & Statements
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"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".
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:
- Apricot kernel
- Flaxseed (linseed)
- Safflower, linoleic (70% and over)
- Safflower, oleic (70% and over)
- Sunflower, linoleic (less than 60%)
- Sunflower, linoleic (60% and over)
- Sunflower, oleic (70% and over)
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.
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