Retail Foods

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Table of Contents


Retail products cover all food items being offered for sale at retail, as opposed to those food products found at other levels of trade (i.e. manufacturing, importing, wholesale, distributor or customs). The food products found at retail may have been produced and /or packaged and labelled on the retailer’s own premises or may have originated at some other trade level.

The labelling requirements detailed in the following section focus on retail responsible products packaged and labelled in the retail establishment where they are sold. They are in addition to the core labelling, voluntary claims and statements, and food-specific requirements outlined in the Industry Labelling Tool.

As the retail outlet is the point at which the product is offered to the consumer, the trader is responsible for ensuring that a retail responsible product (packaged and/ or weighed in store) meets regulatory requirements. Manufacturers and importers share joint responsibility with retailers in ensuring that factory-packed and imported foods are also properly labelled. Under both the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations (CPLR), the manufacturer or importer of a prepackaged product is obligated to label the product before it is distributed for retail sale. Failure by the manufacturer or importer to do so does not exempt the retailer from the same responsibility. The retailer would also be liable if unlabelled goods were sold at retail i.e. the retailer could not claim that it was the manufacturer or importer alone who was responsible.

Retailers are also responsible for the accuracy of any store signage or advertisements that are store generated or displayed to promote the sale of a product.



Most products prepackaged at retail must be labelled, including foods that are prepackaged but available to the consumer only on request, e.g. prepackaged products kept in a service counter [B.01.003 FDR, 10 CPLA].

Most products that are clerk served or are packaged by the consumer are not required to carry a label. Exceptions include barbecued, roasted or broiled meat, mechanically tenderized beef and poultry and horsemeat which must always carry a label on the packaging.

Refer to Non prepackaged foods that Require a Label and Labelling Requirements for Mechanically Tenderized Beef for more information.

Bilingual Labelling

In general, mandatory information is required to be presented in both English and French. Certain products produced and/or packaged and labelled at retail may be considered as local foods for the purposes of a bilingual labelling exemption, depending on where they are sold [B.01.012(1), FDR; 6(1), CPLR].

Where this exemption for local foods applies to gift baskets made and sold at retail, any internal prepackaged foods must be bilingually labelled as per regulatory requirements unless a bilingual labelling exemption applies to that food.

For additional information, refer to the Bilingual Labelling section of the Industry Labelling Tool.

Common Name

Products packaged at retail must bear a common name description on their label.

Any meat cut sold at retail must use the proper common name. Information on appropriate common names for retail meat cuts of beef, veal, pork, lamb and poultry can be found in the Meat Cuts Manual and common names for meat cuts of ostrich can be found on the Ostrich Meat Cut Nomenclature webpage.

Veal sold at retail must be labelled in accordance with the definition of veal in the Livestock and Poultry Carcass Grading Regulations, as outlined in the Common Name – Meat and Poultry Products of the Industry Labelling Tool.

The Food and Drugs Act in conjunction with the Meat Inspection Act and their associated regulations prescribe common names and standards for ground meat. Retailers are responsible for ensuring that the ground meats that they offer for sale are packaged and labelled in accordance with Canadian requirements, such as percentage of fat requirements related to declaring the common name of ground meat. This includes the common names for ground meat burgers and patties which may vary based on their compositional requirements [Schedule 1, Meat Inspection Regulations].

For additional information, refer to the Common Name section of the Industry Labelling Tool.

Date Markings

There are date marking requirements for foods packaged on the retail premises that have 90 days or less of anticipated shelf life, specifically, the packaging date and durable life information. Additionally, foods repackaged by the retailer have further date marking requirements (see Retail Packed Foods.)

Foods with an anticipated shelf life greater than 90 days are not required to be labelled with date marking information. If retailers choose to provide customers with this information, they must follow the required manner of declaration.

For additional information, refer to the Date Markings section of the Industry Labelling Tool.

Modified Atmosphere Packaged (MAP) Foods

When a product is removed from a modified atmosphere container or package at retail, the durable life of that product may change and the retailer becomes responsible for establishing appropriate durable life information. To determine in what manner the durable life for these foods must be provided when they have been repackaged or altered at retail, refer to Modified Atmosphere Packaged Foods.

Exemptions from Durable Life Information

Certain prepackaged products packaged on the retail premises may be exempt from durable life requirements.

In addition, foods packed at retail that are thawed at retail prior to sale without being repackaged are not required to bear a durable life date or a packaging date.

Storage instructions

Previously Frozen Meat, Poultry, or Fish

Section B.01.080 of the Food and Drug Regulations provides special labelling requirements for meat, poultry or fish that has been previously frozen (i.e. frozen and thawed prior to sale). In this section, "frozen" means preserved by freezing temperature and does not include any surface freezing that may occur during holding and transportation.

Where meat (or meat by-products), poultry meat (or poultry meat by-products) or fish (or meat of any marine or fresh water animal) that has been frozen is thawed prior to sale, refer to the requirements related on Previously Frozen Meat and Previously Frozen Fish for more information.

Identity and Principal Place of Business

At retail, the identity and principal place of business declaration is mandatory on all prepackaged products unless an exemption applies to that product. The manner in which it must be declared is dependent on the type of ownership of the store, i.e., whether the store is part of a franchise or independently owned. Refer to Declarations on Retail Specific Products to determine the appropriate manner in which the identity and principal place of business should be declared for products packaged at retail.

Country of Origin

It is mandatory to indicate the country of origin on the labels of certain foods produced and/or packaged and labelled at retail such as cheddar cheese packaged from imported bulk.

For additional details, refer to the Country of Origin section of the Industry Labelling Tool.

List of Ingredients

A list of ingredients is not required to appear on the majority of products prepackaged by the retailer, with the exception of mixed nuts and "seasoned" meat products.

Refer to the List of Ingredients section of the Industry Labelling Tool for additional requirements and exemptions.

Net Quantity

When a catch weight product (definition) is sold to a retailer by a manufacturer, processor or producer, the retailer is responsible for applying the net quantity declaration before offering the food for sale to consumers, unless an exemption applies.

The Average System of Net Quantity determination section outlines the information on tolerances including those for products which are packaged at the retail level of trade.

Refer to the Net Quantity section of the Industry Labelling Tool for additional information.

Nutrition Labelling

Some prepackaged foods sold at retail are exempted from displaying a Nutrition Facts table (NFT). Refer to the nutrition labelling exemptions section for more information.

Retail packaged foods with a ≥ 200 cm2 Available Display Surface and labelled with a sticker are not exempt from declaring an NFT. See the section on retail packages with a ≥ 200 cm2 Available Display Surface for more information on the specific formats that must be used and the flexibility to choose from several versions.

Refer to the Nutrition Labelling section of the Industry Labelling Tool for additional requirements.

Commodity Specific Requirements

Fat and Moisture Declaration for Cheese

Retailers are responsible for ensuring that cheese which they package from bulk on the retail premises are labelled in accordance with the requirements of the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations,including the declaration of the percent (%) milk fat and moisture content of the product.

Barbequed, Roasted or Broiled Meat, Meat By-Products, Poultry and Poultry By-Products

Retailers are responsible for ensuring that meat (or meat by-products) and poultry (or poultry meat or poultry meat by-products) which are barbequed, roasted or broiled on the retail premises are labelled and stored in accordance with the requirements of the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations. These requirements are summarized in the section on Non-prepackaged foods that require a label.

Note that there are Exemptions from List of Ingredients that apply when these products are sold at retail.

Phosphated Meats and Meat Products Packed at Retail

In addition to the basic labelling requirements, pre-packaged phosphated meat and poultry products must meet the requirements outlined in the Phosphated Meats and Meat Products section.

Beef Grades

Retailers who provide generic grade information in mass media advertisements or on in-store display signs (e.g., "Our beef is cut from Canada A or higher") must ensure that any ungraded beef which they also advertise or offer for sale is properly identified as "Cut from ungraded beef". Alternatively, grade information provided could be product specific.

Information about grades on retail meat cuts is outlined in the Grade Designation section of the Meat and Poultry Products webpage.


At retail, advertisements include all in store signage including shelf talkers, printed flyers, educational and promotional material, and other forms of media such as radio, television and on-line information promoting the sale of a product.  All information presented to promote the sale of a product must be truthful and not misleading.

Disclaimer on Retail Store Signs

A disclaimer such as "subject to change with various suppliers" is not acceptable on retail store signs as labelling information covering a variety of foods on display. The retailer is responsible for providing accurate information concerning the product as sold and cannot be relieved of this responsibility by using a disclaimer.

"Gluten Free" Advertisements

Fortified gluten-free foods may be sold at retail but are not permitted to be advertised by the store to the general public. Refer to Advertising of Gluten-Free Foods to the General Public for more information.

Voluntary Claims and Statements

"Made in store" Claims

"Made in store" claims are acceptable when the last substantial transformation occurred in the store where the product is sold.

Water-chilled Net Quantity Claims for Fresh and Frozen Poultry

For fresh or frozen poultry that has been water chilled, food retailers may display one of the following signs, as appropriate, in close proximity to such product when offered for sale in retail food stores:

"All water-chilled poultry and poultry pieces contain water absorbed during processing. The price of the product reflects the water content, and government regulations set limits for the amount of water absorbed."

"Toute volaille et morceaux de volaille refroidis à l'eau contiennent de l'eau absorbée durant la transformation. Le prix du produit en tient compte, et les règlements gouvernementaux établissent les limites d'absorption d'eau permises."

When poultry has been chilled by a combination of water and air, which results in considerably less water pick up, permitted wording would be:

"All water chilled poultry contains water absorbed during processing. Government regulations set limits for the amount of water absorbed."

"Toute volaille refroidie à l'eau en absorbe durant la transformation. Les règlements gouvernementaux établissent les limites d'absorption permises."

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