Net Quantity

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Table of Contents

Requirements

The principal display panel of prepackaged products sold to consumers at retail must include a net quantity declaration, in metric units [4(1), Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, (CPLA)]. In some cases, numerical count may be permitted instead of metric units.

In addition to the requirements in CPLA, a net quantity declaration is required, under section 9 of the Weights and Measures Act (WMA), on prepackaged foods that have not been repackaged for retail sale, such as shipping containers and foods for institutional use. These foods are not covered by the CPLA unless resold at retail. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) does not administer or enforce the Weights and Measures Act. Refer to Measurement Canada for more information.

Exemptions

The following foods are exempt from the net quantity requirement: [4, 18 Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations (CPLR)] [46, WMR]

  • Prepackaged individual servings of food prepared by a commissary and sold in automatic vending machines or mobile canteens;
  • Prepackaged individual portions of food that are served with meals or snacks, such as jams, sugar, crackers, ketchup, and salt. Note: the shipping or master container holding the individual portions is not exempt.;
  • Catch weight products (definition) sold to a retailer by a manufacturer, processor or producer. Note: The retailer is responsible for applying the net quantity declaration before offering the food for sale to consumers. In addition, under the WMA, a net quantity declaration is required on the shipping container.

In addition:

  • Foods exempt from carrying a label under the CPLA are not required to bear a net quantity declaration when sold at retail.
  • When a prepackaged product consists of less than seven identical and separately prepackaged products that are fully labelled and clearly visible at the time of sale, the outer package is exempt from net quantity declaration [28(2), CPLR]. The six or less identical products must each be labelled with a net quantity declaration that is visible despite any outer packaging. This rule applies in spite of subsection 28(1) of the CPLR which provides labelling requirements for when two or more completely labelled products are sold together as a single unit. This provision applies to net quantity as it is a mandatory labelling requirement found exclusively under the CPLA. The FDR does not contain a similar provision.

Manner of Declaring

General

On packages meant for consumers, the net quantity must be declared on the principal display panel. It must be in metric units and be in both English and French.

The net quantity must be indicated [4, CPLA 21, CPLR and 27 CPLR]:

  • by volume for liquids: in millilitres (or for amounts over 1000 milliliters, in litres)
  • by weight for solids: in grams (for amounts over 1000 grams, in kilograms)
  • by count for certain foods, such as candied apples

For catch weight products or products packaged from bulk at retail, that are less than 1000 grams (i.e., 1 kg), the net quantity may be expressed as a decimal fraction of a kilogram [27.1, CPLR].

  • For example, the net quantity of a prepackaged raw small whole chicken is 980 grams. It is acceptable to declare the net quantity for this product as "0.980 kg".

A single space should be used to separate the number from the unit of measure. For example, 500 g is acceptable where as "500g", "500   g", and "500g" are unacceptable.

Phrases such as "net", "net weight", "net contents" or "net quantity" are voluntary and not required as part of the net quantity declaration.

When the quantity is less than one, the numerical portion may be shown in either the decimal system with the figure zero preceding the decimal point (e.g., 0.5 kilogram), or in words (e.g., one-half kilogram) [26, CPLR]. Numerical fractions (e.g., 1/8, 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 3/4, 7/8, etc.) are not acceptable in the metric system and must never be used to express metric measure.

Rounding

The net quantity must be rounded to three figures, unless the net quantity is below 100. If the net quantity is below 100, it may be rounded to two figures. In addition, any final zero appearing to the right of the decimal point need not be shown. [25, CPLR].

For example: 453.59 becomes 454; 85.6 becomes 86; 6.43 becomes 6.4.

If the net quantity is exactly 500 grams or 500 millilitres, it may be expressed as [27, CPLR]:

  • 0.5 kilograms/0.5 litres (or with the appropriate metric symbol for the units)
  • one-half kg/one-half L, , or l (un demi kg/un demi L, , or l)
  • one-half kilogram/one-half litre (un demi kilogramme/un demi litre)
  • 500 g /500 mL, mℓ, ml

Language and Symbols

Net quantity declarations are mandatory information and, therefore, must be bilingual [6(2), CPLR]. The following metric symbols are considered to be bilingual (English and French). They should not be followed by any punctuation.

g: for grams
kg: for kilograms
ml, mL or mℓ: for millilitres
l, L or : for litre

The above symbols are case sensitive and only litre and millilitre measurements have case or font options. The "g" for grams cannot be replaced by "G".

When words rather than symbols are used as net quantity declarations, they must appear in both official languages. For example, the English word "gram" in the declaration "50 grams" must appear as "gramme" in the French net quantity declaration "50 grammes".

The following table shows the correct spelling of metric units of measurement in English and French when words are used instead of symbols.

Spelling of metric units of Measurement
English French
gram gramme
Kilogram kilogramme
Litre litre
Millilitre millilitre

In the French language the decimal point is written as a comma rather than a period. This is acceptable.

Legibility and Location

Foods Sold at Retail

The declaration of net quantity on the labels of prepackaged products for retail sale must appear on the Principal Display Panel (definition) [12(a), CPLR].

A minimum type height of 1.6 mm, based on the lowercase letter "o", is required for all information in the net quantity declaration, except for the numbers which are to be shown in bold face type and in the size shown in the table below. These also apply when the numerical portion is written in words (e.g., "one-half" litre). [14(2) and 14(4) of the CPLR].

Minimum Type Height for Net Quantity Declaration
Area of Principal Display Surface Minimum Type Height of Numerals
square centimetres square inches millimetres Inches
< 32 < 5 1.6 1/16
> 32 to < 258 > 5 to< 40 3.2
> 258 to < 645 > 40 to < 100 6.4 ¼
> 645 to < 2580 > 100 to < 400 9.5
> 2580 > 400 12.7 ½

Non-Retail Foods

There are specific requirements for net quantity declaration on prepackaged food products that have not been packaged for retail sale, such as shipping containers and foods for institutional use. For more information on these requirements refer to Measurement Canada.

When to Use Weight, Volume or Count

Weight

Section 22(1) CPLR lists the prepackaged products that are required to show their net quantity by weight. Examples include honey, cottage cheese and yogurt. Some of these foods are normally thought of as a "liquid" (e.g., liquid whole egg), a "gas" (e.g., aerosol foods) or "viscous" (e.g. honey, molasses). By definition, catch weight products are also sold by weight.

The following products are required to show their net quantity by weight:

  • products packed for dispensing in aerosol form
  • Honey
  • peanut butter
  • maple butter
  • cooking molasses
  • table molasses
  • fancy molasses
  • cottage cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Dips
  • whipped butter
  • liquid whole egg, egg-yolk or egg albumen or mixtures of two or more of those products
  • frozen liquid whole egg, egg-yolk or egg albumen or mixtures of two or more of those products.

Volume

Fluid measure or volume is required for almost all liquids. Section 22(3) CPLR lists the prepackaged products that are required to show their net quantity by volume. Examples include tomato sauce, soup and maple syrup. Some "solid" foods are included in this list (e.g., olives, cherries, pickles), as well as several foods that are not usually thought of as liquids because they are not "pourable" (e.g., jam, sour cream).

Some very viscous liquids (e.g., pudding, oyster sauce) may be declared either by weight, by volume, or by both weight and volume provided both are accurate and not presented in a deceptive manner.

The following products are required to show their net quantity by volume:

  • canned fruits
  • canned vegetables
  • Pickles
  • Relishes
  • Olives
  • creamed mushrooms
  • mushrooms in brine
  • maraschino cherries
  • crème de menthe cherries
  • cocktail cherries
  • beans with pork
  • infant foods
  • junior foods
  • spaghetti in tomato sauce
  • ice cream and products containing ice cream
  • ice milk and products containing ice milk
  • sherbet and products containing sherbet
  • fruit pie filling
  • fountain fruits
  • tomato paste
  • tomato puree
  • Soup
  • condensed soup
  • jam and jam with pectin
  • jelly and jelly with pectin
  • marmalade and marmalade with pectin
  • Preserves
  • frozen liquid foods other than the products described in item 16 of the Table to subsection 22(1)
  • tomato catsup
  • tomato chili sauce
  • tomato sauce
  • tomato pulp
  • tomato juice, concentrated
  • cranberries, cranberry sauce
  • Mincemeat
  • ice cream cake
  • sour cream
  • fruit spreads
  • canned concentrated milk products
  • maple syrup

Drained Weight

Some foods, such as canned shellfish and frozen glazed fish, are packed in brine, water or other liquid that is not normally consumed. Section 22(2) CPLR lists the prepackaged products that are required to show their net quantity by weight of the edible contents in the container (i.e. drained weight). This does not include the free liquid or glaze content.

While a drained weight methodology is used to determine the net quantity declaration of these products, the words "drained weight" are not required in the declaration.

Some legislation, such as the Canada Agricultural Products Act (CAPA), requires a minimum drained weight for certain products in standardized container sizes but requires the net quantity to be stated by volume. For example, Schedule IV of the Processed Products Regulations (PPR) outlines the minimum net and drained weight requirements for lima beans [Schedule IV, Table I, B Canned Vegetables, Item 2, PPR]. However, the net quantity is required to be stated by volume [Schedule V, 4, PPR].

The following information clarifies whether these foods are considered drained weight products:

  • When oysters are packed in oil, both the oysters and the oil is considered to be "edible content", therefore the total weight of the product (i.e. the combined weight of the oysters and oil) must be declared on the label.
  • When vienna sausages are packed in meat stock, the net quantity of the product, excluding the net quantity of the meat stock, must be declared on the label because although the meat stock is edible, it is not intended to be eaten.
  • When sardines are packed in spring water, the net quantity of the product, excluding that of the spring water, must be declared on the label because although the spring water is edible, it is not intended to be eaten.

The following products are required to show their net quantity by weight of the edible contents in the container (i.e. drained weight):

  • canned shellfish
  • canned crustaceans
  • meat packed in brine or vinegar solutions
  • frozen glazed fish

Numerical Count

Canned or frozen corn-on-the-cob is the only food which is required to show its net quantity in terms of numerical count [22(4), CPLR]. However, it is acceptable to declare the net quantity of certain other products by numerical count (e.g., "one dozen donuts" or "one dozen dinner buns").

Established Trade Practices

For a number of products, the method of expressing the net quantity is neither specified in any set of regulations, nor does it follow the general requirement of declaring solid products by weight and liquid products by volume. Section 21 of the CPLR provides for net quantity to be declared according to the established trade practices in these situations. You can find more information on established trade practices for net quantity declarations for foods such as fruit cakes, donuts and popcorn in the table below:

Established Trade Practices for Declaring Net Quantity
Food Weight Volume Count
Buns or Rolls
(e.g. Dinner buns or rolls)
X
Candy Apple X
Cakes X
Fruit Cakes X
Chelsea Buns X
Cookies X
Croissants X
Danish X
Puffed Cereal X
(Boxes)
X
(Bags)
Hard Candies in a Roll X X
Chewing Gum X X
Candy Floss X
Donuts X
Frozen Non-Dairy Creamer X X
Frozen Non-Dairy Whipped Topping X
Hot Dog and Hamburger Buns X
Hot Cross Buns X
Ice X
Ice Cream Sandwich X
Kaiser Rolls X
Lollipops X
Muffins X
Pies (a size declaration (e.g. "a 9" pie") may also be provided) X
Popcorn
(popped)
X X
(in-store only)
Pudding, Frozen X X
Sandwich X X
Sauerkraut
(sold from bulk on retail premises)
X
Sauerkraut
(with preservative) item 19. Schedule III of Table III of the Processed Products Regulations
X
Squares (e.g. brownies, Nanaimo bars, etc.) X
Sticky Buns/ Sweet Buns X
Submarine bread X
Tablets
(e.g., garlic tablets)
X
Tarts X X
(in-store only)
Tea Bags
(both methods of expression are encouraged, however count is optional)
X X
(optional)
Turnovers X

It should be noted that, in addition to the mandatory requirements, a product may also be voluntarily marked in the alternative manner (e.g. if a "weight" declaration is mandatory, then a "numerical count" may be provided as well).

Optional Additional Information

Canadian Units of Measure

Although Canadian (previously named "Imperial") units of measure are not required on labels, they are permitted to be used in addition to the required metric units. When the net quantity is shown in both metric units and Canadian units, the metric units should be declared first and the two units of measure must be grouped together on the label with no intervening material. [17, CPLR].

For example:

500 g net quantity / quantité nette 17.6 oz

Sufficient spacing should be placed between the two declarations to avoid confusion. However, they need not appear on the same horizontal line. The Canadian declaration may be placed below the metric declaration.

For example:

114 ml
4 oz fl

or

114 ml 4 oz fl

"Fluid ounces" and "ounces" are not the same in Canadian units and therefore are not interchangeable. If Canadian units are used, fluids such as coffee and soft drinks must always be described as "fluid ounces" rather than "ounces".

The following conversions may be used:

1 fl oz Canadian = 28.413 ml
1 oz = 28.350 g

U.S. (American) Units

U.S. (American) units of measure may also be used on labels provided that an appropriate and accurate metric net quantity is declared. This may be instead of or in addition to the Canadian measure.

There is a difference between U.S. and Canadian fluid measure. The U.S. fluid ounce is slightly larger than the Canadian fluid ounce:1 fl oz U.S. = 1.041 fl oz Canadian = 29.574 ml.

With the exception of the fluid ounce measure, the U.S. measure is smaller than the Canadian measure. For this reason, all U.S. units of volume, except for the fluid ounce, may be shown in addition to the metric units provided that the U.S. units are identified as "U.S." This distinction is not necessary in cases where the U.S. unit is equal to or larger than the corresponding Canadian measure (e.g., in the case of U.S. fluid ounces) because Canadian consumers would receive at least as much as they expect. Non metric declarations (e.g., fluid ounces, pounds, quarts, etc. ), if shown, may be in English or French.

Canada and U.S. Alternate units of Measurement
MeasureAlternate measureRounded Metric
1 Canadian pint 20 Canadian fluid ounces 568 ml
1 U.S. pint 16 U.S. fluid ounces 473 ml
1 Canadian quart 40 Canadian fluid ounces 1.14
1 U.S. quart 32 U.S. fluid ounces 946 ml
1 Canadian gallon 160 Canadian fluid ounces 4.55
1 U.S. gallon 128 U.S. fluid ounces 3.78

Words and Symbols for Optional Units

The following table shows the correct spelling of optional additional units of measurement in English and French, and the acceptable symbol(s).

Accepted Spelling and Symbols for Additional Units of Measure
EnglishFrenchBilingual Symbol
ounce Once oz
pound Livre lb
fluid ounce (fl oz) once fluide (oz liq) oz fl or fl oz liq
pint (pt) chopine (chop)
quart (qt) pinte (pte)
Gallon Gallon gal

European "e" Symbol

This symbol is used by some countries in the European Union to indicate an average net weight system. It is acceptable to use the European Union symbol "e" alongside a net quantity declaration on imported products, provided that all net quantity requirements are met.

Qualifiers

Qualification of the net quantity declaration is defined as "false and misleading" under paragraph 7(2)(a) of the CPLA and therefore prohibited. Examples of qualified net quantities include "big Litre", "full litre", "approximately" and "average weight". Other representations likely to deceive the consumer with respect to the net quantity of a prepackaged food are also prohibited.

Supplementary Information

Supplementary net quantity information is considered voluntary on food products. However, once a company chooses to place such information on a food label, it must ensure that the statement is not likely to deceive a consumer with respect to the net quantity of a prepackaged product.

For example, although cookies are required to be sold by weight, supplementary information such as a net quantity statement by count giving either the true count, for example, "12 cookies", or a non-precise indication of the minimum count of cookies present is acceptable. Examples of supplementary minimal count information: "at least 12 cookies", "not less than 12 cookies", "more than 12 cookies", "12-14 cookies" "number of cookies may vary from 12 to 14 cookies". In these examples, every package must contain at least 12 cookies and the net quantity by weight must meet the applicable regulatory requirements.

Indications such as "approximately" are too ambiguous and do not indicate a minimum that the consumer could expect, therefore, "approximately" is not an appropriate term.

This supplementary information is not deemed to be a declaration of the number of servings for the application of section 8 of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act (CPLA).

Related Information

Claims

If a manufacturer chooses to make claims referring to net quantity, they will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. For more information on specific claims, refer to Quantity Claims.

Statements on Under-filled Packages

In general, it is not acceptable to under-fill a container with a product. For example, it is not acceptable to package 200 millitres of a beverage in a container having a capacity of 250 millitres. This would result in a head-space of at least 24%, often referred to as "slack-fill", and would be misleading with respect to the quantity of the product [9(1), CPLA].

However, this practice may be acceptable if the product justifiably requires an extra space within the container. In this case, a statement explaining the purpose of the extra space is required on the label. For example, a milk shake requires an extra space for mixing and therefore would be required to carry a statement such as "An extra space is provided for shaking purposes".

Advertising

A net quantity declaration is not required to be stated in an advertisement. If a manufacturer chooses to declare the net quantity of a prepackaged product in an advertisement, then the net quantity declared must be in accordance with the CPLA and CPLR [5, CPLA]. For example, the net quantity of a food cannot be less than the amount of food stated in an advertisement, as that would be misleading.

When the label shows the net quantity in both metric and Canadian units, the net quantity of a product may be stated in the advertisement in either metric or Canadian units. For example, cookies may be advertised in ounces, without any reference to the gram weight, and vice versa, provided that both grams (metric measure) and ounces (Canadian measure) are on the label of the product being advertised [29(1), CPLR].

When the label shows only metric units, a food may be advertised in Canadian units, provided that metric units are also stated in the advertisement. However, it is not acceptable to state only the Canadian units in the advertisement.

Two or More Completely Labelled Products Sold as a Single Unit

When two or more completely labelled products are sold together as a single unit, section 28(1) of the CPLR requires that the following information be shown in the declaration of net quantity:

  • the number of the products in each class (definition) and the identity of each class in terms of common, generic or functional name;
  • the total net quantity in each class in the unit or the individual net quantity of each identical product in the unit; and
  • if a class of product in the unit contains only one product, the net quantity of that product.

The foods may be identical (e.g., soft drink cans), similar (e.g., assorted candy bars) or different, (e.g., a taco kit made up of a tin of taco sauce, a packet of seasoning mix and a package of taco shells in which each is completely labelled enclosed in a box). Gift baskets made up of completely labelled fancy biscuits, candies and cheeses, etc., together in an over wrapped basket also fall into this category. A "class" of foods means very closely related foods such as several different brands of candy bars or different varieties of breakfast cereals.

When the foods making up the finished product are two individually packaged and completely labelled single containers of two different product classes, the net quantity must be shown for both foods. For example:

Macaroni 144 g
Parmesan Cheese Sauce Mix 54 g

When the foods making up the finished product are two individually packaged single containers that are not completely labelled, section 28 (1) of the CPLR does not apply and, as such, the net quantity on the finished product could be either shown as above or simply as "Macaroni Casserole Mix 198 g", where the quantity of both foods are combined. When a liquid food and a solid food, such as tomato sauce and dry pizza dough mix, make up one prepackaged food, the net quantity of the finished product may be declared in terms of:

  • the combined weight of all of the foods that make up the finished product, or;
  • the volume of any liquid food and the weight of any solid food which make up the finished product.

The total net quantity in each class in the unit or the individual net quantity of each identical product in the unit must be stated. For example, "24 tins of Ginger Ale 8.52 L" or "Ginger Ale - 24 cans x 355 ml" or "6 Rice Packets 1 kg & 6 Seasoning Packets 80 g".

Net Quantity of Servings

When a label or advertisement includes a recipe that refers to the number of servings the recipe makes, the net quantity of each serving of the recipe food is not required to be declared.

This should not be confused with the requirement of section 33 (1) of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations. When there is a reference to the number of servings in a food (as sold), a metric declaration of net quantity of each serving is required, immediately adjacent to the reference, in letters and figures of the same size as those in which the reference is made.

Definitions

Catch Weight Product

Catch weight product means a prepackaged product that, because of its nature, cannot normally be portioned to a predetermined quantity. Because of this, it is usually sold in packages of varying quantity [38(1), Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations].

Note: While all catch weight products are individually measured, all individually measured commodities are not necessarily catch weight. For example, liquids are not normally catch weight products because they can be measured to predetermined volumes.

Class

Class means very closely related foods. For example, several different brands of candy bars or different varieties of breakfast cereal are foods in a class.

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