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Questions and answers - Food Labelling Modernization initiative

Questions about food labelling and the Food Labelling Modernization initiative

Why is food labelling important?

Food labelling is one of the most important and direct ways for communication between consumers and industry.

For consumers

Food labelling and advertising provides consumers with important information that helps them to make informed decisions about the food they purchase for themselves and their families. This includes:

For industry

Food labelling is also important to industry. It allows them to:

What is CFIA's role in food labelling?

Government's role is to provide regulatory oversight on food labelling, including compliance promotion, inspection (including laboratory testing) and enforcement.

Responsibility for food labelling in Canada at the federal level is shared, between Health Canada and CFIA.

Why is CFIA modernizing food labelling right now?

Over the last several years, the overall environment and marketplace for food in Canada has evolved and become more complex. We have also seen a number of changes in the area of food labelling.

For consumers

For industry

For government

CFIA is committed to strengthening Canada's world-class food safety system. This commitment was reinforced by the passage of the Safe Food for Canadians Act. The Act sets the stage for modernizing Canada's food safety system, which also promotes consumer protection and a fair and secure marketplace. This is a key focus for CFIA as part of its transformation agenda.

Proposed regulatory changes for Food Labelling Modernization initiative

What are the proposed regulatory changes under the Food Labelling Modernization initiative?

On June 22, 2019, proposed food labelling changes in the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) and the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) were pre-published in the Canada Gazette, Part I.

The changes fall under the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's Food Labelling Modernization initiative and relate to:

To learn more, check out an overview of the changes.

How would the proposed changes benefit consumers?

Consumers have become increasingly aware and knowledgeable about food labels. The proposed changes would provide consumers with more useful product information and improve their ability to compare products and read and understand the information on labels.

The following elements under the Food Labelling Modernization initiative would help consumers make better informed purchasing decisions:

How would the proposed changes benefit industry?

Canada's food industry would be given some flexibility in how they apply certain requirements. This is necessary in an evolving food environment and helps promote innovation and facilitate market access for Canadian food businesses. The changes better align Canada's labelling requirements with international standards, as well as the requirements of key trading partners, facilitating trade for industry.

More specifically, industry would benefit as the proposed regulatory changes would:

What are the timeframes for the implementation of the Food Labelling Modernization initiative labelling changes?

It is proposed that the regulatory changes would be implemented in 3 phases:

How do the Food Labelling Modernization transition periods align with those for other food labelling changes, such as Health Canada's proposed labelling changes, and other CFIA food regulatory amendments?

The Government of Canada is proposing to align various labelling changes to come into effect on December 14, 2022.

This date would see changes to the Nutrition Facts table, list of ingredients, as well as labelling changes for beer and vodka.

The FLM regulatory package also proposes a revised transition period for changes to the Inspection Legend in the SFCR, so it would also align with that date.

What does Incorporation by Reference mean and what elements of the Food Labelling Modernization initiative are proposed to use this regulatory tool?

Incorporation by Reference is a drafting technique that brings the content of the incorporated document, or the referenced part of the document, into a regulation without the need to reproduce the incorporated document (or part of the document) into the regulation itself. Even though the words of the incorporated document are not specifically in the regulation, it is as if those words have been reproduced in the regulation and have the same force (legislative power) as the regulation.

Under the proposed regulatory changes, the following documents would be incorporated by reference in the FDR or SFCR:

Linkages to other initiatives

How is the Food Labelling Modernization initiative linked to other modernization initiatives?

The Food Labelling Modernization initiative is linked to other government department and CFIA modernization initiatives.

For example, Health Canada is modernizing its food regulatory framework as part of the Regulatory Roadmap for Health Products and Food.

CFIA's key strategic priorities, all of which will contribute to modernizing food labelling, include the following.

The Food Regulatory Framework

This framework will create a single set of regulations and consistent requirements for all foods and, where possible, reduce the complexity and modernize our approach towards consumer protection. Where possible, this framework will use outcome-based regulation, placing more emphasis on specific and measurable outcomes and less emphasis on prescriptive requirements to achieve compliance aims. Other approaches, such as incorporation by reference, will also be explored.

Consistent and Efficient Inspections

This aims to implement a single inspection approach carried out nationally in a fair, consistent, and predictable manner that is focused on regulatory outcomes and supported by mobile tools and guidance. CFIA will have greater efficiency and agility to respond to emerging risks through consistent and efficient inspections.

Compliance Promotion

The new inspection model also facilitates consistent compliance and enforcement responses across all food commodities by providing stakeholders, particularly regulated parties, with the tools and information they need to comply with regulations.

Food Labelling Modernization

This initiative will develop a modern and innovative food labelling system within the context of CFIA's priorities and vision, which aligns with the new Safe Food for Canadians Act and CFIA's other modernization initiatives.

It focuses on four key areas:

The successes in these modernization initiatives, including the Food Labelling Modernization initiative, will all contribute to modernizing food labelling.

What have other countries done in the area of food labelling modernization?

Similar food labelling projects have been done in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It is important that our food labelling system remains comparable and takes into account national and international best practices and lessons learned, to enhance confidence domestically and internationally.

Examples of recommendations from other countries include the following.

Stakeholders and the Food Labelling Modernization initiative

Who has been consulted?

To get a balanced understanding of views, consultations have included a wide range of stakeholders, including

What is my role in this initiative?

Consumers, industry and government all have an important role to play in enhancing food labelling in Canada. Through participation in this initiative, we are working together to develop a more modern and innovative food labelling system that benefits us all.

Will the initiative affect day-to-day business related to food labels?

Information will be provided to industry in order to implement changes resulting from the Food Labelling Modernization initiative, when regulatory amendments have been completed.

Additional information

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