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Archived - Modernizing Food Labelling: Discussion Paper on Issues
2014 Healthy and Safe Food Regulatory Forum

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This paper intends to continue the discussion on the modernization of food labelling that Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) are undertaking. It will do the following:


In winter/spring 2014, as part of the Government of Canada's commitment in the Speech from the Throne 2013, Health Canada has engaged Canadian parents and consumers to improve the way nutrition information is presented on labels.

As well, from spring 2013 to early 2014, as part of the Food Labelling Modernization (FLM) initiative, the CFIA engaged with a diverse group of stakeholders, including consumers, industry and government. The goal was to identify food labelling issues that are important to you.

We continue our engagement; your contribution is important. Therefore, we invite you to continue to participate in helping modernize food labelling. This paper will help guide the discussion. It is divided into four sections:

  1. Overview: We highlight how modernizing food labelling aligns with Government commitments and other modernization initiatives; outline our areas of focus and intended outcomes; and indicate what we have done since spring 2013 to engage you, including who we have met with during that time and how we engaged them.
  2. What we heard: We share with you the main issues that Health Canada heard from Canadian parents and consumers about nutrition labelling, and the issues we heard from a diverse group of stakeholders in the 4 key areas of focus of CFIA's FLM engagement (i.e. roles and responsibilities, regulations, policy and program development, and service delivery/IM/IT).
  3. Actions to respond to issues raised: We tell you about some of the initiatives that CFIA and Health Canada are working on to begin addressing some of the issues identified.
  4. Our approach for Phase II of FLM engagement and Health Canada's engagement on Nutrition Labelling: We outline our integrated engagement plan and timing; highlight where you can find information on how to participate in our engagement activities; and include a series of questions to stimulate discussion with you.

1. Overview

In October 2013, the CFIA began reporting to the Minister of Health. While the CFIA's food labelling responsibilities have not changed, this move will strengthen our on-going relationship with Health Canada.

The CFIA and Health Canada are working closely to modernize food labelling, including through the Food Labelling Modernization (FLM) initiative and nutrition labelling consultations.

Modernizing Food Labelling supports Government of Canada commitments, specifically,

Over the next year and beyond CFIA and Health Canada will work with stakeholders to meet these Government commitments. This will be accomplished through the following modernization initiatives.


Health Canada:

The objective of CFIA's Food Labelling Modernization (FLM) initiative is to develop a more modern and innovative food labelling system. The scope includes all types of food, as well as the review of CFIA food labelling frameworks and regulatory, program design and delivery systems. CFIA and Health Canada will continue to actively co-ordinate our food labelling modernization efforts.

The FLM initiative is focusing on 4 key areas below; and is aiming to achieve these outcomes.

Table 1: Food Labelling Modernization Key Areas of Focus, with proposed Outcomes
Area of Focus Outcome
Roles, Responsibilities and Partnerships Stronger food safety system through improved collaboration and communication between consumers, industry, and government; and more information for consumers
Regulations Stronger food safety, nutrition and labelling rules, for example, by modernizing compositional standards; improving the way that nutrition information is presented on labels; reducing regulatory red tape; and strengthening international market opportuniti
Policy and Program Development Improved food policies and programs that are based on risk, to promote and facilitate partnerships, and support consistency to enhance compliance
Service Delivery Renewed commitment to service and improved food safety oversight through more effective inspection, better training and more modern tools

The Food Labelling Modernization initiative was launched in June 2013. The discussion paper used for the first phase of engagement is available online for your reference.

Health Canada's current engagement is focused on Canadian parents/consumers and stakeholders, and its objective is to improve the way nutrition information is presented on labels.

How and who we engaged

CFIA FLM Engagements

Over spring 2013 to winter 2014, the CFIA engaged over 2,300 stakeholders that included consumers, industry and government on food labelling modernization. Stakeholders were engaged in different ways: online, face-to-face, webinars, as well as committee and small group meetings.

Our objective was, and continues to be, to obtain a balanced perspective from as many stakeholders as possible. You can find a breakdown of our engagement activities and who we heard from in Table 2 below and Annex 1.

Table 2: Phase I FLM Engagement Activities on Issues Identification
Event Dates Who participated
Internal engagement sessions Spring 2013 164 CFIA Staff
CFIA Food Safety Regulatory Forum June 2013 200+ stakeholders overall 110 participated in FLM
FLM online consultation June to September 2013 704 responses received (mostly from consumers)
Canadian Food Inspection Agency Transformation webinars (18 Sessions) August to November 2013 900+ participants including internal and external stakeholders
Integrated Food Labelling / Regulatory Modernization engagement sessions (5 locations across Canada) October 2013 327 external stakeholders 93 CFIA staff
Targeted engagement on labelling regulations (online survey) December 30, 2013 to January 31, 2014 21 stakeholder responses

Health Canada's Engagements on Nutrition Labelling

On January 28, 2014, the Minister of Health and Parliamentary Secretary launched the consultation process by holding roundtable discussions with Canadian parents in Ottawa. This was followed by roundtable discussions with parents and other consumers in eight cities across Canada. At the same time, an online consultation was also launched on Health Canada's website and that closed on April 30, 2014.

Overall, there were over 2400 responses received through the online consultation and which included mostly Canadian parents and seniors.

2. What we Heard

Consultations on Food Labelling Modernization

We gathered and analyzed information from all engagement activities held over 2013-14 and identified the following main issues heard from them. These will help stimulate discussion on options that will be the focus of Phase II of our integrated engagement plan to modernize Food Labelling.

Roles and Responsibilities


Program and Policy Development

Service Delivery

Nutrition Labelling Consultations

Early analysis of comments raised during roundtables and through online consultations include:

3. Actions to respond to issues raised

A number of initiatives that CFIA and Health Canada have underway will begin to address some of the issues we heard from stakeholders during our engagement sessions.

Other Initiatives that Contribute to Modernizing Food Labelling:

Areas we will focus on in Phase II of Engagement

For the second phase of FLM engagement, CFIA will focus on the following areas:

Roles and Responsibilities


Policy and Program Design

Service Delivery

Nutrition Labelling: Health Canada will consult with the broader stakeholder community, including on technical issues of nutrition labelling, and will continue to focus on developing options for potential change to nutrition labelling

4. Our Approach for Phase II of Engagement

How we will engage you

Moving forward, Health Canada and CFIA will integrate our engagement activities.

For the Food Labelling Modernization,

Once again we will consult nationally with a wide range of stakeholders to achieve a balanced perspective. Stakeholders include

For Nutrition Labelling,

We would like to hear from as many people as possible, so we will be using various approaches to engage you:

Feedback on the FLM engagement will be analyzed over the winter of 2014-15 and a report of recommendations developed in the spring of 2015.

It is important to keep in mind that this modernization will take time, and that improvements to the food labelling system will happen over time. It will also require your contribution if we are to achieve success.

By sharing your views with us, we have a better understanding of the issues that are important to you, and where gaps exist. The input you share during our next round of engagement will be compiled with those of other stakeholders and will contribute to recommendations for a modern and innovative food labelling system.

For more information

We will share information through the CFIA website and the Health Canada website at each stage of this process. Visit regularly for more information on when and how you can participate.

Discussion questions

These questions will help guide our discussion with you. We encourage you to begin thinking about these questions and your answers in preparation for our engagement session with you. Your comments will help us to validate these issues and begin developing options to respond to them.

  1. What are your impressions of the key issues identified through the HC and CFIA engagements? What other issues could be missing from this list shared with you?
  2. Of the issues identified, which ones are the highest priority in each of the key areas?
  3. What are your comments on the strategy for the upcoming engagement?
  4. In what way(s) is it most important for CFIA and HC to align their labelling modernization efforts?

Opportunity to provide input

You are encouraged to provide comments and suggestions on the concepts outlined in this discussion paper. Comments can be sent to one of the following email:

Thank you for your participation.

Annex 1: Breakdown of participants in FLM online and face-to-face consultations

Our engagement

Online questionnaire

CFIA held the online consultation during June 2013 to September 2013 to obtain feedback from all Canadians about the current food labelling system. We received responses from across Canada, including input from consumers, consumer associations, health care professionals, industry, industry associations, academia, CFIA employees and other governments (provincial and territorial), as self-identified by the respondents.

We received 704 responses to the questionnaire. These came via submissions through the consultation on the CFIA's website, as well as letters and emails sent during the consultation period.

Face-to-face and webinar meetings

CFIA held 11 face-to-face and webinar listening sessions across the country in October and November 2013. To try to be more efficient with participants' time, these sessions were integrated with Food Regulatory Modernization and proposed Imported Food Sector Products Regulations and Health Canada provided representation. They were done with internal and external stakeholders, and 420 people participated.

The sessions were done to

Figure 1: Stakeholder types who participated in either of the four FLM lead engagement, in the issue identification phase.
Figure 1: Stakeholder types who participated in either of the four FLM lead engagement, in the issue identification phase. Description follows.

Breakdown of 1309 responses received:

Figure 2: Stakeholder type who participated in the online consultation for issues identification.
Figure 2: Stakeholder type who participated in the online consultation for issues identification. Description follows.

There were 704 respondents. These people participated through the consultation on the CFIA website, or by submitting emails or letters about the consultation.


Figure 3: Stakeholder type who participants in the face to face and consultation for issues identification.
Figure 3: Stakeholder type who participants in the face to face and consultation for issues identification. Description follows.

There were 420 participants. External stakeholders participated face to face across Canada and internal stakeholder participated by webinars and face to face.


Figure 4: Stakeholder organization sizes for industry participants of FLM led engagement sessions
Figure 4: Stakeholder organization sizes for industry participants of FLM led engagement sessions. Description follows.


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