Information within the Nutrition Facts Table
Serving Sizes and Reference Amounts

General Requirements

Serving Size

The nutrient information presented in a Nutrition Facts table is based on a specific amount of food (edible portion). The amount must be indicated under the Nutrition Facts heading using the phrase "Per (naming the serving size)", "Serving Size (naming the serving size)", or "Serving (naming the serving size)". The serving size is a quantity of food that can be reasonably consumed at a single eating occasion [item 1 of the Table to B.01.401, FDR].

A serving size is based on the food as offered for sale. For foods requiring preparation and foods commonly mixed with other ingredients or another food before being eaten (such as pudding mix, soups or breakfast cereal with milk), the serving size must be set out for the food as sold and may optionally be set out for the food as prepared [B.01.002A (1), FDR]. Refer to Nutrition Facts Table Formats section for more information.

The serving sizes are closely aligned with regulated reference amounts (RA) (i.e. the amounts typically consumed at one sitting), which allows consumers to more easily compare similar products at the point of purchase. The regulated reference amounts, which are included in the Table of Reference Amounts for Food, serve as the basis for determining the serving size for both single-serving containers and multiple-serving prepackaged foods [B.01.002A, FDR]. Refer to the Reference Amounts section for additional information.

The serving size must be expressed in the Nutrition Facts table by declaring the household measure (HM) first, followed by the corresponding metric measure (MM), within brackets. The order of the household and metric measures may not be reversed. Where applicable, the MM is rounded to the nearest 0.1 g or 0.1 mL for quantities of less than 10 g or 10 mL, and to the nearest whole number for quantities of 10 g or 10 mL or more. Rounding rules that apply to the MM are explained in the Core Nutrition Information Table.

This section helps you determine if a product is considered a single-serving or multiple-serving prepackaged product and provides a Decision Tree that outlines the steps for determining and declaring serving sizes.

Single-Serving vs. Multiple-Serving Prepackaged Product

The serving size depends on whether a product is a single-serving or multiple-serving prepackaged product. A prepackaged product is considered to be a single-serving container based on the following criteria [B.01.002A(1)(b), FDR]:

  • If the package contains less than 200 % of the reference amount (RA) for that food, or
  • If the quantity of food in the package can reasonably be eaten by one person at a single eating occasion.

If the product does not meet the above criteria, it is considered a multiple-serving prepackaged product. Refer to the Serving Size Declaration for Multiple-Serving Prepackaged Products section for instructions on how to determine and declare the serving size for these types of products.

Determining if the Package Contains Less than 200 % of the RA

The Table of Reference Amounts for Food must be used to determine if the package contains less than 200% of the RA for that food:

  • From the Table of Contents, select the category of food (A-X) that corresponds to the prepackaged product (note: if the food is intended solely for children under four years of age, refer directly to Category W).
  • Identify the Product Category set out in Column 1 that corresponds to the prepackaged product.
  • The reference amount (RA) for the prepackaged product is set out under Column 2.

Note: If a product or product category is not listed in the Table of Reference Amounts for Food, contact your CFIA local office.

As an example, consider a 473 mL container of chocolate milk. The regulated reference amount (RA) for chocolate milk is 250 mL [Item D.11, Dairy Products and Substitutes, Column 2, Table of Reference Amounts for Food].

Since the 473 mL container contains less than 200% of the 250 mL RA (i.e., 250 mL x 200% = 500 mL), it is considered a single-serving prepackaged product (see Serving Size Declaration for Single-Serving Prepackaged Products. However, if a product doesn't meet this criterion, verify if the product can be reasonably consumed by one person at a single eating occasion.

Packages Reasonably Consumed by One Person at a Single Eating Occasion

If a package doesn't contain less than 200% of the reference amount, determine if it can be reasonably consumed by one person at a single eating occasion. If yes, then it is a single-serving prepackaged product.

For example, consider a 100 g prepackaged oatmeal and chocolate chip cookie sold individually. The reference amount (RA) for cookies is 30 g [Item A.10, Bakery Products, Column 2, Table of Reference Amounts for Food]. In this case, the package does not contain less than 200% of the 30 g RA (30 g x 200% = 60 g), however the cookie would not be expected to be partially consumed, re-wrapped and saved. Therefore, the cookie is reasonably consumed during a single eating occasion despite the fact that cookies have a 30 g reference amount.

Refer to the Serving Size Declaration for Single-Serving Prepackaged Products section below for instructions on how to declare the serving size for these types of products.

Serving Size Declaration for Single-Serving Prepackaged Products

The serving size for a single-serving prepackaged product is the entire net quantity of food in the package and must be declared in the Nutrition Facts table as follows [B.01.002A(2)(a), FDR]:

"Per package" (or alternatively "Serving 1 package" or "Serving Size 1 package"), where the generic term may be replaced with a specific term such as box, tray, can, followed in brackets by the net quantity of the package using the following metric units:

  • grams (g), if the net quantity of the food is shown on the label by weight or by count,
  • millilitres (mL), if the net quantity of the food is shown on the label by volume.

For example, "Per 1 bottle (591 mL)" or "Per bottle (591 mL)", "Per 1 carton (473 mL)" or "Per carton (473 mL)", "Per 1 cookie (100 g)" or "Per cookie (100 g)", "Serving Size 1 entrée (240 g)", "Serving 1 can (355 mL)", "Serving 1 pouch (56 g)" [Table to B.01.401, FDR].

For the purposes of a single-serving prepackaged product, the household measure (HM) is the package and the metric measure (MM) is the net quantity of the package in grams or millilitres, as these terms are described in the legend at the beginning of the Nutrition Labelling- Directory of Nutrition Facts Table Formats.

Serving Size Declaration for Multiple-Serving Prepackaged Products

Determining the Serving Size for a Multiple-Serving Prepackaged Product

The instructions on how to determine the serving size for a multiple-serving prepackaged product are set out in Column 3A of the Table of Reference Amounts for Food.

For example, consider a 650 g container of yogurt. The reference amount (RA) for yogurt is 175 g [Item D.15, Dairy Products and Substitutes, Column 2, Table of Reference Amounts for Food].

Example of the Table of Reference Amounts for Food
Item Column 1 Column 2 Column 3
Product Category Reference Amount (RA) A. Criteria to Determine the Serving of Stated Size for Multiple-Serving Prepackaged Products B. Units for Expressing the Serving of Stated Size for Multiple-Serving Prepackaged Products
HM (MM)
D.15 Yogurt 175 g Container:
  • MM: RA
  • HM: fraction of a cup that is closest in weight in grams to RA
fraction cup (175 g)

In this case, the metric measure (MM) is the reference amount (RA) and is 175 g. The household measure (HM) is the fraction of a cup that is closest in weight in grams to the 175 g RA.  In this example, the HM is determined to be ¾ cup.

Declaring the Serving Size for a Multiple-Serving Prepackaged Product

The units for declaring the serving size for a multiple-serving prepackaged product are set out in Column 3B of the Table of Reference Amounts for Food.

In the case of the 650 g container of yogurt described above, Column 3B sets out the units for declaring the serving size: "fraction cup (175 g)".

In this example, the serving size for the multiple-serving container of yogurt is ¾ cup (175 g) and would be declared as follows: "Per ¾ cup (175 g)", "Serving Size ¾ cup (175 g)", or "Serving ¾ cup (175 g)".

Decision Tree: Determination and Declaration of Serving Size for a Prepackaged Product

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image of Decision Tree outlining the steps followed for determining and declaring the serving size of a prepackaged product. Description Follows
Description of Image - Decision Tree: Determination and Declaration of Serving Size for a Prepackaged Product

Shown here is a decision tree outlining the steps followed for determining and declaring the serving size of a prepackaged product.

The first box of the decision tree instructs you to determine the reference amount using the Table of Reference Amounts for Food. The second box asks if the package is less than 200% of the reference amount or if it can be reasonably consumed by one person in a single eating occasion.

If yes, it is considered a single-serving prepackaged product. For this type of product, the serving size (the entire net quantity of the food in the package) is declared by: HM (MM).

If no, it is considered a multiple-serving prepackaged product. For this type of product, the serving size is determined using Column 3A of the Table of Reference Amounts for Food. The serving size is declared by: HM (MM), as set out in Column 3B of the Table of Reference Amounts for Food.

Additional Examples of Serving Size Determination and Declaration for Prepackaged Products

Crackers

Consider a box of multiple-serving prepackaged crackers, where 6 crackers weigh 21 g. The reference amount (RA) for crackers is 20 g [Item A.11, Bakery Products, Column 2, Table of Reference Amounts for Food].

Column 3A sets out the instructions on how to determine the serving size for crackers in a package of multiple units (where 14 or less pieces make up the 20 g reference amount (RA)). The household measure (HM) is the number of whole crackers closest in weight to the 20 g RA. The metric measure (MM) is the weight of the HM in grams.

In this example, 6 crackers, which weigh 21 g, is the number of whole crackers that is closest in weight to the 20 g RA. Therefore, the HM is 6 crackers and the MM is 21 g.

Column 3B sets out the units for declaring the serving size: # unit(s) (# g)

The serving size is 6 crackers (21 g) and would be declared as follows: "Per 6 crackers (21 g)", "Serving Size 6 crackers (21 g)", or "Serving 6 crackers (21 g)".

Sliced Bread

Consider a loaf of sliced bread, where 2 slices weigh 90 g. The reference amount (RA) for bread is 75 g [Item A.1, Bakery Products, Column 2, Table of Reference Amounts for Food].

Column 3A provides the instructions on how to determine the serving size for sliced bread. The HM for sliced bread is always 2 slices. The MM is the weight of the HM (2 slices) in grams.

In this example, since 2 slices of bread weigh 90 g, the HM is 2 slices and the MM is 90 g.

Column 3B provides the units for declaring the serving size: 2 slices (# g)
The serving size is therefore 2 slices (90 g) and would be declared as follows: "Per 2 slices (90 g)", "Serving Size 2 slices (90 g)", or "Serving 2 slices (90 g)".

Iced Tea Powder Mix

Consider a package of iced tea powder mix. The reference amount (RA) for an iced tea beverage is 375 mL [Item B.1, Beverages, Column 2, Table of Reference Amounts for Food].

Since the iced tea powder mix requires further preparation (such as the addition of water) and a reference amount has not been established for the unprepared form, the reference amount will be the quantity of iced tea powder mix required to make one reference amount of prepared iced tea beverage.

For example, if the directions provided on a package of iced tea powder mix indicate that 20 g of the powder mix is required to make 375 mL (the reference amount) of iced tea beverage, then the reference amount for this particular iced tea powder mix is 20 g.

The serving size will then be declared as follows: HM (MM) where the MM is 20 g, the amount to make the iced tea beverage or the reference amount. The HM is the number of tablespoons of powder mix required to make 375 mL of the iced tea beverage.

The serving size is 1 ½ tbsp (20 g) and would be declared as follows:

"Per 1 ½ tbsp (20 g)", "Serving Size 1 ½ tbsp (20 g)", or "Serving 1 ½ tbsp (20 g)".

Whole Unsliced Cured Cooked Ham

Consider a 2.5 kg prepackaged whole, unsliced, cured, cooked ham.

The reference amount (RA) for cured, cooked ham is 55 g [Item L.8, Meat, Poultry, Their Products and Substitutes, Column 2, Table of Reference Amounts for Food].

Column 3A provides the instructions on how to determine the serving size for cured, cooked ham. The MM for whole, unsliced, cured, cooked ham is 100 g. The HM is the same as the MM and does not have to be repeated.

Column 3B provides the units for declaring the serving size: 100 g.

The serving size is 100 g and would be declared as follows: "Per 100 g", "Serving Size 100 g", or "Serving 100 g".

Note: For products with non-uniform shapes such as hams, roasts and whole multiple-serving fish, where a household measure is difficult to describe, a single 100 gram metric measure (MM) is an acceptable serving size declaration. The household measure (HM) is not required because both the household measure (HM) and the metric measure (MM) are the same. Always refer to the Table of Reference Amounts to ensure that the serving size has been correctly declared.

Reference Amounts

Reference amounts (RA) serve as the basis for determining the serving size for single-serving containers, as well as multiple-serving prepackaged foods. A reference amount (RA) is a specific regulated quantity of a type of food usually eaten by an individual at one sitting. Reference amounts, as established by Health Canada, are set out in Column 2 of the Table of Reference Amounts for Food for a food set out in Column 1 of the table. With the exception of prepackaged meals, reference amounts serve as the basis of compositional criteria for nutrient content claims and health claims. [B.01.001, B.01.002A, item 1 of the table to B.01.401, and the Table of Reference Amounts for Food, FDR].

Unless otherwise noted, the reference amounts are for the ready-to-serve or almost ready-to-serve form of the food and are based on the main intended use of a food (e.g., milk as a beverage and not as an ingredient in recipes or when added to cereal). Where a product requires further preparation (such as the addition of water or other ingredients) and a reference amount has not been established for the unprepared form, the reference amount will be the quantity of the product required to prepare the reference amount of finished product. For example, 35 g would be the reference amount for a 35 g serving of hot chocolate powder used to make 250 mL of hot chocolate, as per directions provided for the preparation of the hot chocolate beverage [Item B.5, Beverages, Column 2, Table of Reference Amounts for Food].

Reference amounts refer only to the edible portion of the food and exclude any liquid in which the solid food may be packed or canned, unless the liquid is customarily consumed with the solid food. For example, the reference amounts for olives and feta cheese do not include the brine, only the olives and the cheese, whereas canned fruit packed in fruit juice includes the fruit juice. Pork ribs would not include the bones, only the meat.

The Table of Reference Amounts for Food, which includes twenty-four (24) different categories of food, is published by the Government of Canada and has been incorporated by reference (IBR) in the Food and Drug Regulations [B.01.001(1), FDR]. Instructions are provided in this table on how to determine and declare the serving size of multiple-serving prepackaged foods for the Nutrition Facts table.

The following excerpt from the Table of Reference Amounts for Food provides an example for "Peanut butter, nut butters and substitutes, such as coconut and soya butter"

Example of the Table of Reference Amounts for Food
Item Column 1 Column 2 Column 3
Product Category Reference Amount (RA) Table Note 1 A. Criteria to Determine the Serving of Stated Size for Multiple-Serving Prepackaged Products B. Units for Expressing the Serving of Stated Size for Multiple-Serving Prepackaged Products Table Note 3
HM (MM)
O.3 Peanut butter, nut butters and substitutes, such as coconut and soya butter 15 g
  • MM: RA
  • HM: number of tablespoons closest in weight in grams to the RA
# tbsp (15 g)

Table Notes

Table Note 1

Note 1 indicates that unless otherwise noted, the reference amounts are for ready-to-serve or almost ready-to-serve form of the food. If not listed separately, the reference amount for the unprepared form-such as dry mixes, is the amount required to make one reference amount of the prepared form. (Note 1 does not apply to this particular example)

Return to table note 1  referrer

Table Note 3

Note 3 provides the following additional guidance -"The terms piece(s) or unit(s), container, package (...), and other similar terms are used as generic descriptors". (Note 3 does not apply to this particular example).

Return to table note 3  referrer

The first heading "Item", O.3 indicates the category "O" for "Nuts and Seeds" and "3" is the third listing.

Column 1 indicates the specific Product Category "Peanut butter, nut butters and substitutes, such as coconut and soya butter".

Column 2 provides the reference amount (RA) – 15 g. Note 1 in this column provides additional guidance.

Column 3 is divided into two sub columns. Column 3A provides the instructions on how to determine the serving size for multiple-serving prepackaged products. It indicates "MM: RA" which means that the reference amount (RA) is the metric measure (MM). The household measure (HM) is the number of tablespoons closest in weight in grams to the 15 g RA. Column 3B indicates the units for expressing the serving size for multiple-serving prepackaged products. The household measure (HM) of "# tbsp" is always declared first followed by the metric measure (MM) in brackets (15 g). Note 3 in Column 3B provides additional guidance.

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