Shipping Containers

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For the purposes of this information, shipping containers include any outer receptacle in which foods are sold or distributed at levels of trade other than to consumers at the retail level. They are therefore often referred to as non-retail containers. The foods inside shipping containers may be in bulk (i.e. not further packaged inside the shipping container) or they may be further packaged into smaller units. Shipping containers may be destined for:

  • further industrial processing;
  • catering use;
  • use by a commercial enterprise or institutional such as a restaurant, hospital, school, etc.;
  • repackaging from bulk into consumer-sized packages;
  • resale directly from bulk consumer into consumer-sized portions, with the packaging done either by a clerk at the time of sale or by the consumer;
  • retailers who will remove the consumer sized units to display them for sale. 

As mentioned in the Labelling Legislative Framework, the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) & Regulations (FDR) apply to all levels of trade (i.e. retail and non-retail), whereas the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act (CPLA) & Regulations (CPLR) only apply to items that are being sold directly to consumers at the retail level. For this reason, the CPLA and CPLR do not apply to shipping containers (unless these same containers ended up being sold directly to consumers at retail).

The Weights and Measurements Act (WMA) & Regulations (WMR) also apply at all levels of trade, and include a requirement for a net quantity declaration on shipping containers. However, the WMA and WMR are not enforced by the CFIA. Refer to Measurement Canada for more information.

Labelling Requirements


The following mandatory labelling requirements apply to shipping containers. For further information on each requirement, visit the Industry Labelling Tool.

  • Common name;
  • List of ingredients and allergen labelling;
  • Identity and Principal Place of Business;
  • Net quantity;
  • Nutrition labelling;
  • Other mandatory information as required for the product (e.g. labelling of irradiated foods, previously frozen declaration, etc.)

Nutrition Labelling

The contents of a shipping container and their intended use will dictate the type of nutrition labelling required on the shipping container. Refer to the reference from the list below that describes the contents of the shipping container:


Shipping containers are generally exempt from date markings and bilingual labelling.

  • Date Markings: A durable life date (definition) is generally not required on shipping containers, even if the products have a durable life of 90 days or less.  However, if the container were to be sold to consumers at the retail level (e.g. some warehouse outlets), durable life date labelling would be required.  For more information, refer to Date Markings.
  • Bilingual Labelling: Labelling information on shipping containers that are destined for a commercial or industrial enterprise or institution is not required to be declared in both official languages if: the shipping container and contents are not resold as a unit prepackaged product to a consumer at the retail level, and if the labelling information required by the FDR is shown in one of the official languages [B.01.012(11), FDR]. For more information, refer to Bilingual Labelling.

Product Specific Labelling Requirements

Irradiated Foods

Shipping containers of irradiated foods have specific requirements beyond those for irradiated consumer prepackaged foods.

  • The label attached to a shipping container containing irradiated foods must carry the following statements [B.01.035.(7), FDR]:
    • "irradiated", "treated with radiation", "treated by irradiation", or a written statement with the same meaning.


    • in the case of shipping containers of foods that have been subjected to the maximum permitted irradiation dose for that food, the statement "Do not irradiate again".

Shipping containers do not require the symbol that indicates the irradiated food [B.01.035(8), FDR].

For more information, refer to Irradiated Foods.

Specific Foods

Certain commodities have specific requirements with respect to shipping containers. For details on shipping container requirements for each individual commodity, refer to the Food-Specific Labelling Requirements of the Industry Labelling Tool.

Claims and Representations

Any claims or representations made on or with respect to food in a shipping container are subject to the same provisions outlined in Claims and Statements of the Industry Labelling Tool.

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