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Food products that require a label

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Labelling requirements

General

Most prepackaged (definition) foods sold in Canada require that a label (definition) be applied or attached to it [B.01.003, FDR; 214, 217, SFCR]. Additionally, certain non-prepackaged foods require a label when sold in Canada.

Only once a label is required do other labelling requirements apply, such as a list of ingredients or common name. For more information on food labelling requirements, visit the Industry Labelling Tool.

Please note some foods may require a label for traceability purposes; traceability-specific labelling requirements should be consulted for additional details.

Exemptions

Exemptions from the requirement to carry a label

The Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) and the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) provide for exemptions to the requirement to carry a label for the following prepackaged foods:

Exemptions from the Safe Food for Canadians Act and Regulations

General

A food that is not compliant with the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and Regulations (SFCR) may be imported or interprovincially traded under certain conditions, and with some exceptions. For information, refer to the Exceptions and non-applications section of the guidance on Regulatory requirement: Trade [18, SFCR].

In addition, the SFCR provides for general exemptions from all requirements of the SFCA and SFCR for certain foods under specific circumstances and conditions, such as foods for personal use or foods carried on a ship, aircraft or train for the crew or passengers.  These general exemptions also apply to labelling requirements. Further details are also available in the Exceptions and non-applications section of the guidance on Regulatory requirement: Trade [19, 20(1), 21-23, SFCR].

Exported foods

Foods manufactured for export are not subject to the requirements of the Food and Drugs Act (FDA).

In general, foods that are exported must meet the SFCR requirements as well as foreign country requirements, subject to certain exemptions. For information on these exemptions, refer to the General requirements – Export section of the guidance on Regulatory requirement: Trade.

Exemptions from specific labelling requirements under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations for certain consumer prepackaged foods

Certain consumer prepackaged (definition) foods are exempt from specific labelling provisions under the SFCR. These consumer prepackaged foods are those that are [299, SFCR]:

Please note the above foods are however subject to labelling requirements under the Food and Drug Act (FDA) and Regulations (FDR).

The SFCR labelling requirements that do not apply to the above consumer prepackaged foods are:

SFCR provision Topic
200, 216, 221, 229(1)(a), 230-241 Various provisions dealing with net quantity  
222 Place of manufacture of label or container
223 Food wholly manufactured, processed or produced in a foreign state
224, 229(1)(b) Statement that a flavouring ingredient is imitation, artificial or simulated, and its type size requirement
228 Display card

As well, for the specific uses and circumstances listed above, consumer prepackaged peanut butter, wine, glucose syrup and refined sugar syrup are exempt from standard container size requirements [188(1), SFCR].

If a food is exempt from a labelling requirement of SFCR but is nonetheless labelled with that information, it must be labelled in the same manner as though it was required [203, SFCR].

More information on exemptions from specific labelling requirements is available on the Industry Labelling Tool.

Information on prepackaged foods

Under the SFCR and FDR, prepackaged foods and prepackaged products both refer to those that are packaged before being offered for sale. This includes products packaged for sale to consumers (referred to as consumer prepackaged) and those packaged for sale to other companies or institutions, such as a box of flour that is sold by a mill to a bakery, or an industry-sized pail of syrup that is sold by a manufacturer to a restaurant. Foods that are packaged at retail before being offered for sale, such as candies packaged into containers from bulk or buns placed in a bag by the retailer are also considered to be prepackaged.

Note that the SFCR definition of prepackaged food is closely aligned with the FDR definition of prepackaged product. For additional information, refer to Definition of “prepackaged” and “consumer prepackaged”.

Food products that are offered for sale unpackaged and then packaged by a clerk upon request by the consumer are not considered to be prepackaged products. These are often referred to as clerk-served foods. Examples include:

Food products that are offered for sale unpackaged and then packaged by the consumer (e.g., food sold in bulk bins) are also not considered to be consumer prepackaged products.

Package/Container

Based on the definitions in the FDA and SFCR, a package (definition) or container (definition) is interpreted to include:

A package or containers is interpreted to exclude:

Information on the definitions of "Sell"

Both the FDA and SFCA define "sell (definition)". Both specify that to sell includes "distribute, whether or not the distribution is made for consideration". This means that a sale is considered to have taken place whether or not money (or other compensation) is exchanged.

Therefore, free samples of food distributed door-to-door through the mail or by other means are subject to the labelling requirements of the FDA for foods sold in Canada, such as for common name, a Nutrition Facts table, and a list of ingredients. "Distribute" also includes the distribution of prepackaged products in a hospital to patients or on an airline to passengers.

With respect to labelling requirements of the SFCA, the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations provide exemptions from specific labelling requirements for consumer prepackaged foods that are distributed for no consideration [299, SFCR]. For additional information, refer to Exemptions from specific labelling requirements under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations for certain consumer prepackaged foods.

Most labelling requirements apply to products when "sold" by a regulated party. This may include when a manufacturer or importer distributes a shipment of product to a store, when a retailer packages a food from bulk and offers it for sale to consumers, when a product is re-sold, or various other situations. All sellers have a responsibility for compliance with requirements, at the various levels of trade.

Non-prepackaged foods that require a label

In addition to prepackaged foods, some non-prepackaged foods are required to carry a label [B.01.003(1)(b) to (f), FDR]. As the definition of label includes words belonging to or accompanying a food, the labels of non-prepackaged foods may be on a tag or sign accompanying the food, and not necessarily placed on the product itself. Since the majority of mandatory labelling requirements only apply to prepackaged foods, the labelling requirements for these foods are limited.

The list below identifies the non-prepackaged foods that require a label and associated labelling requirements:

Meat products that are non-prepackaged when traded interprovincially or internationally must also be labelled with the following [282, 283, 297, SFCR]:

For more information on meat products labelling, including poultry-specific requirements, refer to Meat and poultry products.

Related links

Definitions

Consumer prepackaged

Consumer prepackaged, in respect of a food, means packaged in a container (definition) in the manner in which the food is ordinarily sold to or used or purchased by an individual — or in which the food may reasonably be expected to be obtained by an individual — without being repackaged, to be used for non-commercial purposes [1, SFCR].

Container

Container means an outer receptacle or covering that is used or to be used in connection with a food. It includes a wrapper and a confining band but does not include a conveyance (definition) or any container that is an integral part of a conveyance [1, SFCR].

Conveyance

Conveyance means a vessel, aircraft, train, motor vehicle, trailer or other means of transportation, including a cargo container [2, SFCA].

Food

Food includes any article manufactured, sold or represented for use as food or drink for human beings, chewing gum, and any ingredient that may be mixed with food for any purpose whatever [2, FDA; 1, SFCR].

Package

Person

Person means an individual or an organization as defined in section 2 of the Criminal Code [2, FDA; 2, SFCA].

A person may therefore be an individual or an organization, and may include a consumer, a manufacturer, a retailer, an importer, a restaurant, any other commercial or industrial enterprise, an institution such as a school or hospital, and anyone else who sells, uses, or buys a food.

Prepackaged

Prepackaged, in respect of a food, means packaged in a container (definition) in the manner in which the food is ordinarily sold to or used or purchased by a person (definition), and includes consumer prepackaged (definition) [1, SFCR].

This definition is closely aligned with the FDR definition of prepackaged product (definition).

Prepackaged product

Prepackaged product means any food that is contained in a package in the manner in which it is ordinarily sold to or used or purchased by a person [B.01.001(1), FDR].

This definition is closely aligned with the SFCR definition of prepackaged (definition).

Sell/Sale

For additional details, refer to Information on the definitions of "sell".

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