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Questions and Answers - Compliance and Enforcement

What are the regulatory changes? Why?

In an effort to make the labelling information on prepackaged food products more useful and easier to read for Canadians, Health Canada published amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations (Regulations) on December 14, 2016. The regulatory amendments impact nutrition labelling, list of ingredients and food colour requirements.

For detailed information about the new regulatory requirements, refer to the Health Canada website.

How is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency aligning with Health Canada?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada have been working closely to harmonize and implement the changes to the Regulations. Health Canada is responsible for the establishment of regulations and standards for health, safety and nutritional quality of food, while the CFIA's main role is to ensure enforcement of and compliance with the new Regulations.

Is there a transition period? If so, how long will it be?

Beginning on December 14, 2016, regulated parties have a five (5) year transition periodFootnote 1 to meet the labelling requirements of the new Regulations. However, amendments dealing with food colour specifications and removal of the synthetic colour certification requirement come into effect immediately.

For detailed information about the new regulatory requirements, refer to the Health Canada website.

What does the transition period mean for manufacturers?

The five (5) year transition periodFootnote 1 beginning on December 14, 2016 provides manufacturers with sufficient time to adapt and update their labels to be in compliance with the new regulatory requirements. It takes into account that other regulatory changes will be coming into effect over the next several years as part of CFIA's Food Labelling Modernization Initiative and Health Canada's Healthy Eating Strategy. CFIA and Health Canada are aiming to align the coming into force dates of these initiatives. During the transition period, manufacturers may comply with either the former or the new labelling requirements.

Can a manufacturer apply only some of the new labelling requirements?

During the five (5) year transition periodFootnote 1 beginning on December 14, 2016, manufacturers must comply with either the former or the new labelling requirements. Manufacturers are not permitted to partially comply with both sets of labelling requirements. If a manufacturer chooses to implement one or more of the new labelling requirements, it is their responsibility to ensure that all new labelling requirements are followed as well.

What happens at the end of the transition period?

The transition period will end on December 14, 2021Footnote 1. Manufacturers will then be required to ensure that all prepackaged food products being manufactured or imported as of December 15, 2021 comply with the new labelling requirements. Inspection activities will monitor compliance with the new Regulations.

At the end of the transition period, do retail product labels have to comply with the new Regulations?

Foods prepackaged in-store by retailers as of December 15, 2021 will have to comply with the new labelling requirements.

Are prepackaged food products that were manufactured or imported prior to the end of the transition period required to comply with the new Regulations?

At the end of the transition period, prepackaged foods manufactured or imported before December 15, 2021 can be sold to retailers and can remain on store shelves even if they comply with the former labelling regulations (that is, labelling requirements in place prior to the December 14, 2016 amendments). Products manufactured or imported on or after that date, as well as those that are prepackaged in-store as of December 15, 2021, must comply with the new labelling requirements (that is, those introduced with the December 14, 2016 amendments).

Where can I find more information?

More information on the regulatory changes and their implications can be found on the Health Canada and CFIA websites.

The CFIA Industry Labelling Tool has been updated to reflect these regulatory changes.

What are CFIA's plans for compliance and enforcement during the transition period?

Inspection activities will focus on the availability (presence on the label) and accuracy of mandatory information (such as values declared in the Nutrition Facts table, validity of claims and ingredients declaration, including allergens), regardless of the former or new labelling requirements being followed by the manufacturer. If claims are made, their accuracy will also be evaluated. An educational approach will be used to inform manufacturers of the new regulatory requirements. Complaints will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

For more information, refer to the Implementation Plan for Amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations Related to Nutrition Labelling, List of Ingredients and Food Colours, available on the CFIA website.

Where can a consumer submit a food safety or labelling concern during the transition period?

During the five (5) year transition periodFootnote 1 beginning on December 14, 2016, food safety or labelling concerns can still be submitted using the Report a Concern page on the CFIA website.

How do we submit questions?

For all food labelling questions, including those related to the new requirements, the primary resource is the Industry Labelling Tool. Any additional questions may be directed to a CFIA local office.

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