Bilingual food labelling
Consumer prepackaged food
Mandatory information on consumer prepackaged food must be shown in both official languages, i.e., French and English. This includes core labelling requirements, such as common name, and prescribed words or expressions for specific foods [206, SFCR; B.01.012(2), FDR].
The following are exceptions and can be labelled in one official language:
- the name and principal place of business of the person by or for whom the food was manufactured, processed, treated, preserved, produced or packaged for resale, may be in either English or French [206(1), SFCR; B.01.012(9), FDR]
- the common name of certain alcoholic beverages, if they appear on the principal display panel (definition) exactly as shown in B.01.012(10), FDR
Shipping containers destined to a commercial or industrial enterprise or an institution are generally exempt from bilingual labelling provided they are not resold to consumers at retail and all mandatory information for shipping containers is provided in one official language [B.01.012(11), FDR; 205(1), SFCR]. However, if the same shipping container is offered for sale to consumers at retail (e.g., at a warehouse outlet), bilingual labelling requirements apply.
Specific words or expressions on the label of certain foods prepackaged in shipping containers are however required to be shown in both English and French, except for specialty foods, local foods or test market foods [205(2), SFCR]. These words or expressions include:
- "Keep Refrigerated" and "Garder réfrigéré", or "Keep Frozen" and "Garder congelé" on the principal display panel, in the case of a low-acid food in a hermetically sealed package to which a scheduled process is not applied [48(2), 399, SFCR; B.27.002(2)(a), FDR]
- other specific information, words or expressions on the label of certain prepackaged commodities. For additional information, refer to the Food-specific labelling requirements of the Industry Labelling Tool
As a general rule, information on the labels of the following foods may be in one official language only, when they meet the definitions and specific conditions outlined in the text that follows:
- specialty foods
- local foods
- test market foods
A food that meets the definition of specialty food may be labelled in either official language [B.01.012(7), FDR; 205(2), 206(1), SFCR].
A specialty food [B.01.012(1), FDR; 207(c), SFCR] is defined as:
- A food or beverage that has special religious significance and is used in religious ceremonies, or
- An imported food that
- is not widely used by the population as a whole in Canada, and
- for which there is no readily available substitute that is manufactured, processed, produced or packagedFootnote 1 in Canada and that is generally accepted as being a comparable substitute
For example, Kosher foods for Passover and sacramental wines and host wafers, when sold to religious institutions, are considered to be examples of specialty foods that have special religious significance and are used in religious ceremonies. In these situations, they are exempt from bilingual labelling requirements.
Kosher foods, in general, are not considered to be specialty foods. However, Kosher foods for Passover sold at retail 40 days before and 20 days after Passover are intended to be used in religious ceremonies and may be labelled in one official language. Outside this time frame, these foods must be labelled bilingually when sold at retail.
Likewise, host wafers and halal foods are not considered to be specialty foods when sold at retail because they are not necessarily sold for use in religious ceremonies. In these situations, these foods must be fully labelled in both official languages.
Note: Foods must meet all the applicable conditions in the regulatory definition for specialty foods for the bilingual labelling exemption to apply. The majority of imported foods are not considered to meet the definition of "specialty food" outlined above and are therefore not eligible for the bilingual labelling exemption. This is due to the widespread availability and consumption of a variety of foods imported into Canada from various countries.
A local food for the purposes of the bilingual labelling exemption is defined as a food that is sold only in the local government unit in which it is manufactured, processed or packagedFootnote 1 and/or one or more local government units that are immediately adjacent to the one in which it is manufactured, processed, produced or packagedFootnote 1 [B.01.012(1), FDR; 207(c), SFCR].
For a local food to be exempt from bilingual labelling requirements [B.01.012(3), FDR; 205(2), 206(1), SFCR], it must meet the above definition and the following conditions:
- one official language is the mother tongue (definition) of less than 10% of the total number of residents of the local government unit in which it is sold [B.01.012(3)(a), FDR]; and
- all mandatory information is presented in the official language that is the mother tongue of at least 10% of the residents of the local government unit in which it is sold [B.01.012(3)(b), FDR]
Local foods are not exempt from the bilingual requirements when both official languages are the mother tongue of less than 10% of the population residing in a local government unit. For example, if the mother tongue of a local government unit consists of only 9% French and 9% English, along with several different languages totalling 82% of the population, the food would be required to be labelled in both official languages, i.e., French and English [B.01.012(4), FDR]. The exemption also does not apply where each official language is the mother tongue for more than 10% of its residents.
Note: Local foods for the purposes of the bilingual labelling exemption are defined by regulations and are not to be confused with "local" origin claims.
An example of a local food for the purposes of the bilingual labelling exemption is a product manufactured in Burnaby (BC) and sold only in Burnaby and the local government units which are immediately adjacent to Burnaby, i.e., in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Richmond, New Westminster, Coquitlam and Port Moody. However, as soon as this food is sold beyond the local government units adjacent to Burnaby such as West Vancouver, Delta, Surrey, and Port Coquitlam, Anmore and Belcarra in British Columbia or Kamsack (SK) and Barrie (ON), it ceases to be a local food for the purposes of a bilingual labelling exemption and must be labelled bilingually wherever sold.
Test market foods
Foods which are approved for a test market may be exempt from bilingual labelling requirements. For detailed information on foods that may be considered for a test market, conditions that must be met and applying for a Notice of Intention to Test Market, refer to Test marketing and other authorizations.
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