Labelling requirements for fish and fish products
Common name - fish and fish products
Prepackaged (definition) fish must be correctly and legibly labelled with the common name of the fish [218(1)(a), SFCR]. Refer to the Common Name and Legibility and Location pages of the Industry Labelling Tool for more information, including minimum type size and location requirements.
The common name of a fish product is [1, SFCR; B.01.001, B.01.006(1), FDR]:
- the name printed in boldface type, but not in italics, in the incorporated by reference document entitled Canadian Standards of Identity, Volume 3 – Fish
- the name given in the document incorporated by reference entitled Common Names for Prepackaged Fish, if the fish is in hermetically sealed package
- the name printed in boldface type, but not in italics, in the Food and Drug Regulations
- the name prescribed by other applicable Canadian legislation, or
- if the name is not prescribed in legislation, the name by which the food is generally known
CFIA fish list
The CFIA Fish List provides regulatory guidance regarding the common names for fish. The names on the CFIA Fish List are considered acceptable common names and the use of these names is recommended. The use of common names that are not on the CFIA Fish List can be assessed against the requirement that no person shall package or label fish in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive [5(1), FDA; 6(1), SFCA].
The CFIA Fish List also provides a Taxonomic Serial Number (TSN) for each species, along with any associated hazards. Scientific names for fish species are verified with the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS).
Anyone seeking an amendment (deletion or addition) to the CFIA Fish List may submit a request through the Ask CFIA website. Applications can be made in accordance with Section 5 of the Guidance on Determining the Common Names for Fish Sold or Processed in Canada.
Generic common names
Unless outlined in the Canadian Standards of Identity, Volume 3 – Fish, the use of generic names such as "fish fillets" or "fish portions" is not recommended when the product contains a single fish species. A name of the species should be incorporated into the common name, for example "haddock fillets", "cod portions".
If the product contains more than one species of fish, in most cases a generic name "fish" can be used in the common name provided that the species are indicated in the list of ingredients.
Labelling of Pacific Salmon
The name "Pacific Salmon" is not included as an acceptable common name in the CFIA Fish List due to the different market values of species of Pacific salmon. As described above, the common name should always include the name of the species, for example "chum salmon fillets" or "sockeye salmon portions". The statement "Pacific salmon" is permitted on the label only as additional information, but may not replace the common name.
Labelling of Seafood Mix Products
For a seafood mix product to be labelled as "Fruits de mer" in French, 100% of the mix should be small edible marine invertebrates with a shell at the time of harvest, i.e. crustaceans, echinoderms and molluscs of the classes Bivalvia and Gastropoda. Species from the Cephalopoda class do not have a protective shell and therefore are not included in the definition of "Fruits de mer." Examples of "Fruits de mer" includes, but is not limited to, clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, whelks, shrimp, sea urchins, lobster and crab.
A seafood mix which also contains other marine products (e.g., fish, squid, octopus, cuttlefish, etc.) could be labeled as "Produits de la mer" or "Produits de la pêche" in French.
"Seafood" is an acceptable translation in English for the French terms "Fruits de mer", "Produits de la mer" and "Produits de la pêche".
Hermetically sealed fish products
The common name on hermetically sealed fish (definition) must indicate whether the product has been prepared:
- by mincing, flaking or another special process
- from selected parts of fish, or
- for dietetic use [262(1)(j), SFCR].
Fish products that are made from surimi (a paste made from highly refined minced fish) must use the name by which the food is generally known, as there is no prescribed common name in the Canadian Standards of Identity, Volume 3 – Fish, the Common Names for Prepackaged Fish or identified in boldface type, but not in italics, in the Food and Drug Regulations. Therefore, such products may use the term "surimi" in the common name, and should include additional descriptors as appropriate (e.g. surimi roll, surimi cakes).
In some instances, surimi-based products closely resemble more expensive seafood products, such as crab legs, shrimps, or scallops through flavouring and shaping. Surimi-based products that resemble these foods should be labelled and/or advertised to clearly show that they are imitations.
- The common name identifies the term "artificial" or "simulated" or "imitation" (such as "artificial crab legs" and "imitation lobster meat"), or
- The common name identifies the name of the species used in the product (such as "crab flavoured Alaskan pollock" and "lobster flavoured seafood made from whiting"), or
- If various species were used, the common name refers to a generic name (such as "crab flavoured seafood" and "lobster flavoured kamaboko")
From a single species
If the oil has been extracted from a single species of fish or marine animal, the common name of the product should be the common name of the species, e.g. "halibut oil" or "seal oil".
From various species
If the oil is a mixture of oils extracted from various species, the name of the product must include all the common names of the species, e.g., "salmon, sardine and seal oil" and the common names of the species must be repeated in the list of ingredients. The common names must be declared in the ingredients list in descending order by their content in the product.
If the oil has been extracted from multiple marine animal species, and not from fish species, a generic common name "Marine oil" can be used. The common names of the marine species must be included in the list of ingredients in descending order by their content in the product.
If the oil has been extracted from multiple fish species, but not from other marine animals such as seals, a generic common name "Fish oil" can be used, and common names of the fish species must be included in the list of ingredients in descending order by their content in the product.
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