Net quantity on food labels
Net quantity verification
The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations contains the prescribed tolerances for net quantity declarations and requirements for inspection of a lot of food to determine compliance of consumer prepackaged foods [199(3) and (5), 200, SFCR]. For guidance on how the Canadian Food Inspection Agency verifies the net quantity declared on consumer prepackaged foods, refer to Operational Procedure: Net Quantity Verification.
If a manufacturer chooses to make claims referring to net quantity, they will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. For more information on specific claims, refer to Quantity Claims.
Statements on under-filled packages
In general, it is not acceptable to under-fill a container with a product. For example, it is not acceptable to package 200 millitres of a beverage in a container having a capacity of 250 millitres. This would result in a head-space of at least 24%, often referred to as "slack-fill", and would be misleading with respect to the quantity of the product [6(1), SFCA].
However, this practice may be acceptable if the product justifiably requires an extra space within the container. In this case, a statement explaining the purpose of the extra space is required on the label. For example, a milk shake requires an extra space for mixing and therefore would be required to carry a statement such as "An extra space is provided for shaking purposes".
A net quantity declaration is not required to be stated in an advertisement. If a manufacturer chooses to declare the net quantity of a prepackaged product in an advertisement, then the net quantity declared must be in accordance with section 216 of the SFCR. For example, the net quantity of a food cannot be less than the amount of food stated in an advertisement, as that would be misleading.
When the label shows the net quantity in both metric and Canadian units, the net quantity of a product may be stated in the advertisement in either metric or Canadian units. For example, cookies may be advertised in ounces, without any reference to the gram weight, and vice versa, provided that both grams (metric measure) and ounces (Canadian measure) are on the label of the product being advertised [238, SFCR].
When the label shows only metric units, a food may be advertised in Canadian units, provided that metric units are also stated in the advertisement. However, it is not acceptable to state only the Canadian units in the advertisement.
Two or more completely labelled products sold as a single unit
When two or more completely labelled products are sold together as a single unit, section 239 of the SFCR requires that the following information be shown in the declaration of net quantity:
- the number of the products in each class (definition) and the identity of each class in terms of common, generic or functional name, and
- the total net quantity in each class in the unit or the individual net quantity of each identical product in the unit
The foods may be identical (e.g., soft drink cans), similar (e.g., assorted candy bars) or different, (e.g., a taco kit made up of a tin of taco sauce, a packet of seasoning mix and a package of taco shells in which each is completely labelled enclosed in a box). Gift baskets made up of completely labelled fancy biscuits, candies and cheeses, etc., together in an over wrapped basket also fall into this category. A "class" of foods means very closely related foods such as several different brands of candy bars or different varieties of breakfast cereals.
When the foods making up the finished product are two individually packaged and completely labelled single containers of two different product classes, the net quantity must be shown for both foods. For example:
Macaroni 144 g
Parmesan Cheese Sauce Mix 54 g
When the foods making up the finished product are two individually packaged single containers that are not completely labelled, section 239 of the SFCR does not apply and, as such, the net quantity on the finished product could be either shown as above or simply as "Macaroni Casserole Mix 198 g", where the quantity of both foods are combined. When a liquid food and a solid food, such as tomato sauce and dry pizza dough mix, make up one prepackaged food, the net quantity of the finished product may be declared in terms of:
- the combined weight of all of the foods that make up the finished product, or;
- the volume of any liquid food and the weight of any solid food which make up the finished product.
The total net quantity in each class in the unit or the individual net quantity of each identical product in the unit must be stated. For example, "24 tins of Ginger Ale 8.52 L" or "Ginger Ale - 24 cans × 355 ml" or "6 Rice Packets 1 kg & 6 Seasoning Packets 80 g".
Net quantity of servings
When a label or advertisement includes a recipe that refers to the number of servings the recipe makes, the net quantity of each serving of the recipe food is not required to be declared.
This should not be confused with the requirement of section 241 of the SFCR. When there is a reference to the number of servings in a food (as sold), a metric declaration of net quantity of each serving is required, immediately adjacent to the reference, in letters and figures of the same size as those in which the reference is made.
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