Food composition and quality claims
Guarantees and testimonials
The word "guarantee" is usually associated with an offer to return the purchase price when the consumer is not satisfied with specific characteristics or the performance of a product when these can be readily evaluated.
Guarantees referring to the quality of foods are generally acceptable, provided that the manufacturer can support the guarantee. If there are conditions under which the guarantee is invalid, such conditions must be stated clearly.
Personal opinions, testimonials, honest convictions or alleged new discoveries are judged in the same manner as other claims. See Reference to Surveys and Questionnaires for more information.
Testimonials or Endorsements that deal with the sensory qualities of a product, such as flavour, texture, taste, appearance or similar attributes, are usually acceptable when these claims can be readily evaluated by consumers.
Refer to Testimonials and Guarantees Regarding Vitamin and Mineral Nutrients for more information on specific requirements.
Certified or approved claims
Descriptive terms implying certification (e.g., "certified", "approved" or "certificate of analysis"), may be misleading unless the facts pertaining to the "certification" or "approval" are known to the consumer, or are shown on the label or in the advertisement. One acceptable use of certification, for example, is the organic logo that is prescribed by subsection 359(1) of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations. The organic logo indicates that the product is certified organic by an accredited organic certification body under the Canada Organic Regime.
Claims regarding grades
Grade names and grade requirements are established for specific food commodities. Grade names must be declared in advertisements of such foods when a price is declared and more than one grade of the food is available at retail. Carcasses of beef or veal as well as portions thereof weighing 7 kg or more must always include the grade name assigned to that meat. A yield class must also be featured in an advertisement for Canada A, Canada AA, Canada AAA or Canada Prime beef [B.14.018(1), FDR]. In addition, any advertisement for beef, veal or portions thereof weighing 7 kg or more without an assigned grade must clearly indicate that the meat is ungraded in the advertisement [B.14.018(2), FDR]. Grade names must not be used to describe products that have not been graded.
In cases where a food product is imported, the grade assigned to the product by a grading authority established under the laws of the country from which the food was imported, may be used in any advertisements for that product.
Certain claims may be used on products of the company's highest grade. Claims such as "Company X's Finest", "Our Best", and "X Brand Premium Quality" are permitted provided that the product is of the company's highest quality brand and that the claim does not imply that the product is superior to the declared grade. These types of claims may not appear in proximity to the grade mark and may only be used on products of the company's highest grade.
For more information on grade requirements, refer to Grades.
Food safety related claims
The following information provides guidance on the use of food safety statements used on food labels and in advertisements.
Foods Must Be Safe to Consume
Under the conditions set out in the Food and Drugs Act (FDA), it is unlawful to sell a food that is unfit for human consumption in Canada [4(1),FDA].
Since it is unlawful to sell a food that does not meet the FDA requirements for safety, statements that refer to a food being safe to consume are considered by the CFIA to create an erroneous impression about the food. Where a characteristic, such as safety, is common to all foods, an erroneous impression may be created by implying or stating that the food for sale is safe. As this characteristic is not solely attributed to one food, it creates a false uniqueness. There are also varying risks associated with food consumption for different people, including those with food allergies, with compromised immune systems, for the very young and the elderly and for those with special dietary needs, such as people with diabetes or celiac disease. Guarantees or assurances that the consumption of a food is unequivocally risk free or zero risk are considered to create an erroneous impression about food safety.
A claim that a pathogen is absent may create an erroneous impression that similar products contain the pathogen unless it is appropriately qualified by a statement to the effect that the claim is not unique to the food, but is common to all foods of the same class.
For more information regarding negative statements, see Negative Claims Pertaining to the Absence or Non-Addition of a Substance.
Words and visual depictions used to promote the safety of food products, as well as the impressions they create must not create false, misleading or deceptive impressions such as an erroneous impression of 100% safety.
Reference to Food Technology or Food Processing Methods
The use of clear and truthful statements regarding the method of processing are generally acceptable, provided that these do not imply benefits beyond those provided by the method. The use of a name of a food processing method or technology, such as "pasteurized" and "UHT" (ultra-high temperature), on its own is generally acceptable, provided it is actually applied to the food. Words should not be used as part of the name of the processing method or technology that create an erroneous impression about the safety of the food product. Any further explanation of the technological effect of the method (e.g. the process renders the food commercially sterile) must be clear and relevant to consumers and must not create the impression that the product is safer than other products in the market nor that the method confers absolute food safety in line with guidance in this section.
Food processing and handling practices are not inherently without risk. Certain methods of food processing, such as pasteurization, while reducing the bacterial level of the food and eliminating the potentially harmful pathogens, do not remove all bacteria in a food. Product promotion through labels or advertising should not create the impression that a particular process guarantees 100% food safety.
The context in which the term "fresh" is used will generally dictate its meaning. The term "fresh" may be used to describe the nature, the organoleptic qualities or the age of a food, or it may be used as part of a trade name or brand name provided that the trade name or brand name complies with the applicable federal food legislation.
Fresh to Indicate a Lack of Processing
The claim "fresh" is considered acceptable when used to describe a food that has not been processed or preserved in any way. The claim "fresh (naming the food)" can be used to describe a food that is not canned, cured, dehydrated, frozen or otherwise processed or preserved. The following information is helpful when determining the acceptability of a "fresh" claim.
- Although refrigeration is a means of preserving foods, consumers generally consider refrigerated fruits, vegetables, meats and fluid milk as "fresh". The process of pasteurization is not regarded as altering the freshness of milk; consumers recognize that all fluid milk is pasteurized.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables that have been refrigerated in controlled-atmosphere storage, irradiated, waxed or washed in a mild chlorine or acid solution may be called "fresh".
- The term "fresh" may be used to distinguish fresh pasta from dehydrated pasta if the "fresh pasta" has not been treated by any means other than by refrigeration, vacuum packaging or modified atmosphere packaging.
- Meats, including poultry and fish products that have not been treated by any means, other than by refrigeration, vacuum packaging or modified atmosphere packaging to ensure their preservation, may be called "fresh".
- "Fresh sausage" made with frozen meat may be described as "fresh" [1, Canadian Standards of Identity, Volume 7 – Meat Products].
- It is not considered acceptable to use the term "fresh" as a descriptor for shell eggs on the label since the quality of eggs is described solely by a grade designated under the Safe Food for Canadians Act. However, the use of the term "fresh" is acceptable in advertising to distinguish eggs in the shell from other physical forms of eggs such as powdered, frozen or liquid whole eggs.
Fresh to Indicate Age or Recent Preparation
The claims "fresh (naming the process and food)" or "freshly (naming the process and food)" are often used to indicate that the food has been recently produced, obtained or grown. While useful indications of freshness, such claims are potentially misleading unless they are further qualified by a "packaged on" date or by an explanatory statement as to why the product is "fresh". Additional guidance has been developed for the use of "fresh" claims that indicate age or recent preparation on the following products:
Fresh Bread and Other Bakery Products
Recently baked bread and other bakery products, including meat pies, may be described as "fresh" regardless of whether the product or its ingredients contain preservatives or are preserved by other means. This is because in this case, "fresh" refers to the recent preparation of the food rather than the freshness of its ingredients or components. For example, recently baked bread made with frozen dough, pie made with canned fruit, and pizza made with frozen dough, as well as recently prepared preserved meat may be described as "fresh" as a result of recent preparation.
Synonymous expressions such as "fresh baked", "freshly baked", "oven fresh bread", "bakeshop fresh", "fresh from the baker's oven", "freshly baked in the store", etc. may also be acceptable. In order to clarify to consumers that "fresh" refers to recent preparation, the claim should be accompanied by a "packaged on" date or a date indicating recent preparation. In the case of broadcast advertising, a specific time (e.g., "baked fresh daily") should be included.
Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
While all "fresh" fruit and vegetables are considered fresh, terms such as "orchard fresh", "valley fresh", "garden fresh" and "fresh from the field" or synonymous claims are considered acceptable only when these terms are used to describe fresh fruit and vegetables that have been harvested and brought to the market at the earliest possible moment (with minimal storage and within days of harvesting). For example, it is considered misleading to advertise or label a package of fruit or vegetables as "orchard fresh" if this produce has been subject to months of controlled-atmosphere storage. Similarly, it would be considered misleading to describe apples as "orchard fresh" if they are imported apples that have spent five weeks on a freighter before reaching their destination. These could simply be labelled as "fresh" or "fresh new crop from (naming the country of origin)".
The terms "freshly squeezed juice" or "fresh daily" may be used to describe juice that has been recently pressed provided the claim is accompanied by a "packaged on" or other date indicating recent preparation.
"Fresh" may be used to identify the principal ripening characteristic of consumer prepackaged cheese, if the cheese has not undergone any ripening [249(4)(d), SFCR].
Fresh Ground Beef / Poultry / Fish and Ground Coffee
The term "freshly ground" is considered to mean that ground beef/poultry/fish or ground coffee has been recently ground and offered for sale at the earliest possible time after grinding.
Consumers are less likely to be misled by claims such as these when accompanied by a "packaged on" or other date indicating recent preparation. When the product is packaged at a place other than the retail premise from which it is sold, this "packaged on" date is required in addition to the mandatory durable life date and storage instructions. Refer to Date Markings for information.
Fresh to Indicate Organoleptic Qualities
In addition to describing the nature and age of a food, the term "fresh" can be used to describe other product characteristics such as flavour, texture, appearance and smell. Consumers are best able to judge the merits of "fresh" when used as a sensory modifier in claims such as "fresh tasting", "fresh from the sea flavour", " fresh frozen", etc.
Fresh as an Element of a Trade Name or Brand Name
Trademarks, company names and fanciful names containing the word "fresh" are acceptable provided the term is used, in labelling or advertising, in such a manner that it remains clear to the consumer that "fresh" is not a characteristic of the product and that these names represent a brand. The use of "fresh" as an element of trade or brand names will be assessed on an individual basis.
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