Labelling requirements for alcoholic beverages
Product specific information for beer

Note

On April 15, 2019, amendments to the compositional standard for beer and the repeal of the exemption for food allergen, gluten and added sulphites labelling requirements for beer of the Food and Drug Regulations came into force. Regulated parties have a transition period until December 13, 2022 inclusively, to meet the new requirements.

Consult the Former – Product specific information for beer for more information on the former requirements.

Common name for beer

Section B.02.132 of the FDR establishes mandatory common names or qualified common names as outlined below for beer based upon alcohol content.

Common names
Percentage of alcohol by volume Qualified common name or common name
1.1 to 2.5 Extra light beer
2.6 to 4.0 Light beer
4.1 to 5.5 Beer
5.6 to 8.5 Strong beer
8.6 or more Extra strong beer
Low alcohol beer

"0.4% alcohol beer" is an acceptable common name for a beer that meets the Food and Drug Regulations' standard for beer but contains 0.4% alcohol. Section B.02.132 of the Regulations establishes common names for beer that contain 1.1% alcohol or more (extra light beer to extra strong beer). Since there are no requirements for the common name of beers that contain less than 1.1% alcohol, this common name is considered to reflect the nature of the product.

Source of Carbohydrates

Section B.02.130 of the FDR sets the standard for beer and indicates that several ingredients may be added "during the course of manufacture". These ingredients include sources of carbohydrates.

The intended function of a "source of carbohydrates" when added to beer is not specified in regulation. Although there is no regulatory definition for "source of carbohydrates", this term is interpreted to mean an ingredient whose single largest component is carbohydrate and which is used to assist in fermentation, or to enhance the flavour, body, or colour of the product. A non-exhaustive list has been provided to clarify the regulatory intent: honey, maple syrup, fruit, fruit juice or any other source of carbohydrates [B.02.130(1)(c)(ii), FDR].

Manufacturers should be able to demonstrate that an ingredient is composed primarily of carbohydrates, i.e., that carbohydrate is the largest single component of the ingredient.

The reference to "during the course of manufacture" in the beer standard is interpreted to include both during fermentation and post-fermentation processing up to and including the packaging of the final product. Therefore, a beer with a source of carbohydrates added at any time during the course of manufacture and containing no more than 4% by weight of residual sugars (definition) would be in compliance with B.02.130 of the FDR.

Herbs and spices

Herbs and spices are allowed to be added during the course of manufacturing regardless of their carbohydrate content, as per the beer compositional standard [B.02.130(1)(c)(iii), FDR].

Micro-organisms

A mixture of yeast and other micro-organisms can be used for fermentation, as per the standard [B.02.130(1)(a), FDR].

Flavouring Preparations

Flavouring preparations (definition) may be used in the manufacture of foods to impart or modify an odour or taste. The beer standard allows for flavouring preparations in beer. However, their use triggers an additional labelling requirement. The specific flavouring preparation used shall form part of the common name (e.g. "beer with blueberry flavour") [B.02.130(2), FDR]. This clearly identifies to consumers that flavouring preparations were added to a beer.

Maximum percentage of residual sugars

The standard requires beer to contain no more than 4% by weight of residual sugars (definition). Products not meeting this requirement cannot use "beer" as a common name; they must use an appropriate common name (for example "a blend of beer and grapefruit juice").

Food additives

The beer standard does not include naming each food additive permitted, but rather includes a general provision that allows for the presence of permitted food additives. Specific food additives permitted in beer and the permitted maximum levels of use are remaining in the Lists of permitted food additives (Lists). The food industry needs to consult the Lists for the most up-to-date information on the use of permitted food additives, including those permitted in beer along with their full conditions of use. Permitted food additives must be determined by consulting the Lists, rather than identifying each specific food additive in the beer standard.

Processing aids

A food processing aid is a substance used for a technical effect in food processing or in manufacture (e.g. substance added to minimize the foaming in the kettle or fermenter during beer processing). Its use does not affect the intrinsic characteristics of the food and results in no or negligible residues of the substance or its by-products in or on the finished food. The Food and Drug Regulations do not typically list processing aids in compositional standards, with the exception of wine, honey wine and pectin. In beer, the processing aids are not listed as part of the standard. For more information, refer to processing aids.

Ice beer

Ice beer is an acceptable claim for a beer subjected to the process of freezing and removal of the ice crystals so formed. The common name used for such a product must be based on the alcohol content of the beverage as outlined above in Common name for beer, with "ice" as optional additional information.

List of ingredients and food allergen, gluten and added sulphite labelling for beer

Beers, including beers made with flavouring preparations, are exempted from the requirement to declare a list of ingredients on the label [B.01.008(2)(f), FDR]. However, prepackaged beers are required to declare food allergen sources (such as wheat), gluten sources (such as barley) and added sulphites (such as sulphurous acid) [B.01.010.1(2), B.01.010.2(3), FDR]. If ingredients on the label of a beer are voluntarily declared, then food allergen sources, gluten sources or added sulphites could be declared as part of that list. If not, then a "Contains" statement is required.

See List of ingredients and allergens for more information.

Use of the term "light" for beer

For information refer to Common name for beer and Use of the term "light".

Gluten-free beer

For information refer to Gluten-free beer.

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