Food Product Innovation initiative

The objective of the Food Product Innovation initiative is to develop a more modern food labelling system that responds to current and future challenges in the area of food labelling for all foods.

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Food labelling and the Food Product Innovation initiative

Why food labelling is important

Food labelling is one of the most important and direct ways for communication between consumers and industry.

For consumers

Food labelling and advertising provides consumers with important information that helps them to make informed decisions about the food they purchase for themselves and their families. This includes:

  • basic product information, such as common name, net quantity and ingredients
  • health, safety and nutrition information, such as the Nutrition Facts table and allergen declarations
  • information aligned with consumer values or preferences, such as how a food is grown or made

For industry

While industry is responsible for ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements for food labelling, labelling is also important to industry. It allows them to:

  • communicate and promote the content and characteristics of the food they are marketing and selling to consumers
  • show how their products are different from others on the market

Canadian Food Inspection Agency's role in food labelling

Government's role is to provide regulatory oversight on food labelling, including compliance promotion, inspection (including laboratory testing) and enforcement.

Responsibility for food labelling in Canada at the federal level is shared, between Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

  • Health Canada is responsible for establishing regulations, standards and policies related to the health, safety and nutritional quality of food sold in Canada
  • CFIA is responsible for enforcing regulations and policies that are developed by Health Canada
  • CFIA also administers and enforces non-health and safety related policies and regulations

Why the CFIA is amending labelling regulations right now

In the last several years, the overall environment and marketplace for food in Canada has evolved and become more complex. We have also seen a number of changes in the area of food labelling. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada has committed to supporting innovation and economic recovery. These regulatory changes will provide more flexibility for industry, while maintaining consumer protection.

What happened to the Food Labelling Modernization initiative

Due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Government of Canada's approach to support economic recovery, the Food Labelling Modernization initiative was refocused on provisions that facilitate industry innovation and remove duplicative requirements.

This new initiative, called Food Product Innovation (FPI), did not result in mandatory labelling changes.

Other elements of the Food Labelling Modernization initiative that would have resulted in mandatory label changes will be pursued in a future regulatory package.

Regulatory changes for the Food Product Innovation initiative

Regulatory changes under the Food Product Innovation initiative

On July 6, 2022, changes were made in the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) and the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR), these amendments were published in the Canada Gazette, Part II.

The changes fall under the CFIA's Food Product Innovation initiative and are the:

  • repeal of some standard container sizes
  • incorporation by reference of the remaining standard container sizes
  • incorporation by reference of class names
  • harmonizing and streamlining food commodity specific labelling requirements
  • clarification of licensing provisions of the SFCR do not apply to restaurants and similar enterprises

To learn more, check out the summary of changes.

How the changes benefit consumers

Consumers have become increasingly aware and knowledgeable about food labels. The proposed changes would provide consumers with clearer information to guide their purchasing decisions. There will be more opportunity for industry to respond to consumer preferences by marketing innovative products and providing information on labels that supports consumer choice.

How the changes benefit industry

Canada's food industry now has some flexibility in how they apply certain requirements. This is necessary in an evolving food environment and helps promote innovation and facilitates market access for Canadian food businesses. The changes better align Canada's labelling requirements with international standards, as well as the requirements of key trading partners, facilitating trade for industry.

More specifically, industry benefits from the regulatory changes that:

  • promote innovation and creates flexibility: prescriptive labelling requirements for certain commodities are replaced by an outcome-based approach that provides food businesses with more flexibility, as will the repeal of some container sizes
  • facilitate trade and increases market access: Canadian food products could be seen as more acceptable in foreign markets as the changes facilitate alignment with the labelling requirements of major trading partners (such as the U.S., European Union and Australia) and international standards (Codex Alimentarius)
  • improve market fairness: the introduction of a definition for "test market food" ensures all businesses have to follow the same requirement when seeking a test market authorization (an exemption from certain regulatory requirements in order for a company to test a product on the Canadian market)
  • incorporate by reference multiple documents: incorporation by reference is a drafting technique that allows the CFIA to be more reactive to concerns of industry and consumers by quickly responding to modern science and new innovation which may require regulatory change

Timeframes for implementing the Food Product Innovation initiative labelling changes

None of the changes require industry to make changes to their current food labels. As such, no transition period was necessary and all of the regulatory changes came into effect the date the regulations were registered.

What incorporation by reference means and what elements of the Food Product Innovation initiative used this regulatory tool

Incorporation by reference is a drafting technique that brings the content of the incorporated document, or the referenced part of the document, into a regulation without the need to reproduce the incorporated document (or part of the document) into the regulation itself. Even though the words of the incorporated document are not specifically in the regulation, it is as if those words have been reproduced in the regulation and have the same force (legislative power) as the regulation. Incorporation by reference supports a responsive regulatory system that adapts quickly to industry and consumer concerns.

Under the regulatory changes, the following documents have been incorporated by reference in the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) or Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR):

How an incorporated by reference document is modified

To support modifications to documents incorporated by reference, stakeholders, such as food businesses, industry associations and other government departments, may submit a document containing the details of the proposed modification following the instructions in How to request a modification to a document incorporated by reference by the CFIA into the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations or the food-related provisions of the Food and Drug Regulations.

CFIA will take steps to analyze a submission and develop a proposal and a decision will be made whether or not it will move on to the next step in the process as well as the timelines for these next steps. Next steps could be consulting on or modifying the document incorporated by reference.

Linkages to other initiatives

Food Product Innovation initiative and other modernization initiatives

Since the Food Product Innovation initiative does not trigger regulated parties to make any changes to their food labels, there is no impact to other government department regulatory initiatives.

Guiding principles

Trusted partnerships
Sharing the responsibility for safeguarding Canada's food, plant and animal resources through defined roles and open and transparent scientific information sharing.
Global leader
Pushing the frontier of food safety and animal and plant health that encourages a globally competitive industry and removes roadblocks to market innovation.

Areas of focus

Agile regulations
Enabling innovation through adaptive oversight and control measures.
Intelligent oversight
Identify risks, based on the latest science and dynamic intelligence to move resources and invest in tools in the right places.
Enabled workforce
Equipping our people with the modern, secure and reliable applications and digital work tools they need to do their daily work to safeguard food, plant, and animal resources.
Stakeholder empowerment
Advancing information sharing and self-service through digital tools so stakeholders make informed choices and comply with regulatory requirements.

Food Product Innovation initiative and the Food labelling coordination: Joint policy statement with Health Canada

This joint policy statement outlines the CFIA and Health Canada's commitment to enhance coordination of changes to food labelling requirements and to establish predictable compliance dates for these changes. Since none of the regulatory changes in the Food Product Innovation initiative trigger regulated parties to make changes to their current food labels, the Food labelling coordination: Joint policy statement does not apply.

How the regulatory amendments compare internationally

Some of Canada's trading partners have built, or are building, similar regulatory frameworks that reflect this approach, and that balance innovation while maintaining public trust and addressing food safety risks.

Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex), an intergovernmental body under the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, of which Canada is a member, develops and maintains international food standards to protect the health of consumers and support fair practices in food trade.

It is important that Canada's food labelling system reflects, where appropriate, Codex guidance and the regulatory approach of our trading partners. The FPI amendments were developed with this goal in mind.

Stakeholders and the Food Product Innovation initiative

Who has been consulted

CFIA has been consulting with Canadians on a modernized food labelling framework since 2013 as part of an overall approach to modernizing the Government of Canada's food regulatory framework.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the CFIA made adjustments to the Food Labelling Modernization initiative and renamed the initiative Food Product Innovation, the CFIA held an additional technical session with industry stakeholders to validate this approach.

How the initiative will affect day-to-day business related to food labels

Food labels do not require any changes. There is no change to the level of inspection, what is inspected or how food labels are inspected. Therefore there should be no or very minimal change to day-to-day business.

Additional information