Presentation of the Nutrition Facts Table
Graphic and Technical Requirements within the Nutrition Facts Table
The Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) specifically prescribe where and how nutrition information must be displayed on each prepackaged food, whether on a Nutrition Facts table (NFt) affixed to the container or by some other permitted mechanism (such as on an Available Display Surface for tags). To ensure legibility, the graphic and technical requirements of the NFt are highly prescriptive. Sections B.01.450, B.01.460 of the FDR and the Directory of Nutrition Facts Table Formats set specifications, with respect to:
- order of presentation of information;
- dimensions for type size (for different parts of the NFt), rules (lines forming the outer box, between nutrients and between sections of the NFt), and leading (for every line of information);
- spacing (between columns of information; between nutrients and the declaration of amounts; between the numerical declaration and the unit; and between the numerical declaration and the % sign for the Percent Daily Value (% DV), etc.);
- use of bold type; and
- use of capital letters.
The image below is Figure 1.1(E) of the Directory of Nutrition Facts Table Formats and displays the graphic and technical requirements of the Standard Format NFt.
Standard Format Details
The Nutrition Facts table (NFt) must be in both of Canada's official languages (i.e., French and English), unless otherwise exempt from bilingual labelling. Please refer to the Bilingual Labelling section for more information about the general bilingual labelling requirements.
In a bilingual NFt, the order of languages may be reversed from the order shown in the applicable figure in the Directory of Nutrition Facts Table Formats (i.e., French before English) [B.01.450(6), FDR].
No other languages within the NFt or Nutrition Facts tables from other countries are permitted because the format and presentation of the NFt are prescribed by the FDR. Nutrition information in another language is permitted outside the table.
The Nutrition Facts table (NFt) must be on one continuous surface (definition) of the available display surface (ADS) [B.01.451, FDR]. It is not allowed to continue over edges and corners onto a second surface or panel.
For example, in the image below, the NFt crosses the corner onto another panel. This is not permitted.
However, with multi-sided containers where the angles are obtuse and a consumer can easily visually follow the labelling information across the angles, two or more panels may be considered a continuous surface of the ADS. For example, on an eight-sided Tetra Pak container, three panels may be considered one continuous surface of ADS (see image below). (Note: This image is used solely to illustrate this concept; however it does not meet all current regulatory requirements). The sides of cylindrical containers are considered to be one continuous surface.
When there are two separate English and French Nutrition Facts tables, both must be placed either on the same continuous surface or on two separate continuous surfaces of the same size and prominence. When there is a single NFt, whether bilingual, unilingual English or unilingual French, it must appear in its entirety on one continuous surface.
For nutrition labelling purposes, note that the NFt may appear on any surface of the package, including the bottom of the food or container if the available display surface includes the bottom.
The Nutrition Facts table (NFt) must be oriented in the same manner as the other information on the label when there is sufficient space to do so [B.01.452(1), FDR]. This means printing the NFt standing "upright" or turned or tipped on its side (i.e., rotated 90°) so that the words in the table read in the same direction as the other words on the same panel (e.g., as viewed on the store shelf).
When there is insufficient space, the NFt may be oriented in another manner (e.g., the Standard Format may be tipped on its side, as displayed in the example below), provided there is sufficient space to do so and the food contained in the package will not leak out or be damaged when the package is turned to view the NFt [B.01.452(2), FDR]. (Note: This image is used solely to illustrate this concept; however it does not meet all current regulatory requirements).
When the NFt is displayed on either the top or bottom of the package, it is not required to be oriented in the same manner as other information on the label [B.01.452(3), FDR].
The Nutrition Facts table (NFt) must be visible under customary conditions of sale. For example, the outer packaging must not be destroyed or individual units manipulated in order to view the NFt. This applies to such packages as multi-packs of yogurt with individual units sharing a common lid. In addition, the NFt cannot be printed on the inner side of a label affixed to a bottle of clear liquid, such as vegetable oil, forcing the consumer to view the NFt through the contents of the container.
For information on the acceptable locations on a package for nutrition information, please refer to the Location Requirements section of the Legibility and Location page.
The NFt must be on an exterior facing surface at the time of sale, where the consumer can see the information, unless it is eligible for one of the alternate methods of presentation. It may not be hidden on an interior facing surface as shown in the image above. (Note: This image is used solely to illustrate this concept; however it does not meet all current regulatory requirements). Since the product is sold as one unit, a NFt is not required on each cup. However, if the individual packages are ever sold singly, directly to the consumer, they would have to be labelled.
The information in the Nutrition Facts table (NFt) must be listed in the correct order, using the required nomenclature, units, rounding rules and the appropriate format. See the tables to B.01.401 and B.01.402 (FDR) and the Information within the Nutrition Facts Table and Elements within the Nutrition Facts Table sections for further information, including details about serving sizes and reference amounts.
All versions of the NFt must be set out in accordance with the format specified in the applicable figures in the Nutrition Facts Table Formats section. The core nutrients must always be declared in the order and in the units shown in the applicable format. Vitamins and minerals (other than sodium, potassium, calcium and iron, which are core nutrients) are usually declared in the bottom part of the table. For order of presentation of additional nutrients, refer to Additional Nutrition Information section in Information within the Nutrition Facts Table, and to the Additional Information in the Nutrition Facts Table section in Foods Intended Solely for Infants Six Months of Age or Older but Less Than One Year of Age.
Font is a style of print. A Nutrition Facts table (NFt) must use a single non-decorative "sans serif" font [B.01.450(3)(a), FDR]. "Serif" is a slight finishing stroke or projection off the main stroke of a letter, for example "S" contrasted with "S". Sans serif fonts are those fonts that do not have finishing strokes on the letters. Decorative fonts are also not permitted.
- Sans Serif Font: Arial and Helvetica are sans serif fonts; they are acceptable.
- Serif Font: Times New Roman is a serif font; it is not acceptable.
For example, the NFt in the image below, which is the Simplified Standard Format table, uses a "serif" font. "Serif" fonts are not permitted for use in the NFt.
Decorative font: Decorative font such as cursive is not permitted in the NFt.
For example, the NFt in the image below uses a decorative font. This type of font is not permitted for use in the NFt.
While the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) do not prescribe the specific font that must be employed, there is a provision that not more than one font may be used in a NFt. The figures in the Nutrition Facts Table Formats section use Helvetica font. However, other sans serif fonts are permitted.
The NFt in the image below uses more than one font. Notice that the title "Nutrition Facts" and the serving of stated size "Per HM (MM)" are in a different font from the rest of the NFt. The use of more than one font is not acceptable in the NFt.
Note: The font type used in the above example for the title "Nutrition Facts" and the serving of stated size "Per HM (MM)" would not be acceptable as it is not a "sans serif" font.
The Compendium of Templates for Nutrition Facts Tables and List of Ingredients was created in Adobe InDesign CC 2015, and is available in INDD, IDML and PDF formats. The templates were created using an OpenType version of Helvetica and Helvetica Condensed fonts. If the fonts are not available, similar sans serif fonts may be substituted using the "Find Font" feature in InDesign or Illustrator, or the "Usage" utility in Quark Xpress.
If you do use another sans serif font you will have to ensure that graphic elements will still comply with the specifications of the corresponding regulated figure in the Directory of Nutrition Facts Table Formats. For more information on the applicable graphic software and possible conversions of the templates, please refer to the Introductory Notes section of the Compendium of Templates for Nutrition Facts Tables and List of Ingredients. You may find directions as to how to obtain the format templates through the Compendium of Templates for Nutrition Facts Tables and List of Ingredients section.
Font Size and Width
The Directory of Nutrition Facts Table Formats sets out the specifications for all versions of all Nutrition Facts table formats, including font width and font size. In addition, the minimum type size that may be used in each NFt version to show the nutrients is set out in B.01.450(3.1) of the FDR.
Larger versions of the formats require normal width font while many smaller versions are required to use condensed width fonts. However, fonts may not be reduced beyond a condensed width as it may decrease legibility. Characters may not touch each other or the lines.
Normal width font:
The font size is measured by the "point" unit. "Point" means the unit of measurement for type size that is known as a PostScript point and is equal to 0.3527777778 mm [B.01.001(1), FDR].
Some common point measures in the Standard Formats for type size have been converted below:
- 6 point = 2.12 mm
- 8 point = 2.82 mm
- 13 point = 4.59 mm
Clarity and Legibility of Type
It is unacceptable to have fuzzy print within the NFt. However, label print may expand or bleed during some printing processes (such as the "flexo" process) and on some packaging materials (such as carton).
Therefore, label designers, printers and manufacturers must take these factors into consideration when designing a label. When bleed may be a problem, larger versions of the NFt should be used even when, based on the area of the available display surface, a smaller type would otherwise be acceptable. Or when necessary, lines and print should be reduced on the design or printing plates, to ensure that the final product is compliant with the FDR.
For example, the NFt in the image below is fuzzy and the characters touch. An NFt with poor clarity and legibility such as this is not permitted. (Note: This image is used solely to illustrate this concept; however it does not meet all current regulatory requirements).
It is not permitted to highlight nutrients by using larger or smaller print than prescribed or by italicising or changing font.
For example, the declarations of "Omega-6 Polyunsaturated" and "Omega-3 Polyunsaturated" fats in the NFt below have been italicized to highlight their presence. Italicizing nutrients in the NFt is not permitted.
For example, in the NFt below, the font size of the declaration for "Dietary Fibre" has been increased to draw attention to this nutrient. The use of a larger font size in the NFt for only certain nutrients is not permitted.
For example, the declaration for "Cholesterol" has been highlighted in the NFt below. Highlighting of nutrients in the NFt is not permitted.
Leading is the space between lines of type. It is also known as "linespacing" in English and "interligne" in French. Leading is measured from the baseline of the letters in one line of type to the baseline of the letters in the line of type above it.
In the example below, the leading is the distance measured between the bottom of the letter "a" in "apples" and the bottom of the letter "m" in "mangoes" in the line above.
These mangoes are not ripe yet.
These apples are really red and juicy.
In the NFt, there is no leading prescribed above the first line of type. Therefore, leading is only applicable to lines of type below the first line. For example, in the Standard Format [Figure 1.1(E)], there is no leading above the heading "Nutrition Facts" because there is no line of type above it. The lines in the box around the entire NFt are not lines of type and are not considered when measuring leading.
A "descender" is that part of a lowercase letter that extends below the baseline (applicable to the letters g, j, p, q, and y). The descender is not considered in the leading measurement (e.g., use only the round portion of the letter "p"). "Descenders" normally rest on the implied "descender line" which demarcates, in most instances, the lowermost limits of the characters of the font.
An "ascender" is that part of a lowercase letter that extends above the x-height (the main body of the typeface) in the letters b, d, f, h, k, l, t. "Ascenders" and capital letters (i.e., uppercase letters) normally reach to the implied "ascender line". Leading is not measured to the ascender line, but rather to the baseline of the line of type above.
Some common point measures in the standard formats for leading size have been converted below:
- 9 point = 3.17 mm
- 12 point = 4.23 mm
- 14.5 point = 5.12 mm
Please refer to the Nutrition Facts Table Formats section for more details about the different formats available.
A horizontal or vertical "line" is called a "rule". An easy way to remember this, is that a line can be drawn with a ruler. Rules enclose the Nutrition Facts table (NFt) in a box and divide or run between lines of type. These rules do not affect the leading measurement as the rule is a line, not a line of type.
For example, in the Standard Format [Figure 1.1(E)], information in the NFt must be enclosed by a box with 0.5 point rule within 3 points of text. A "point rule" refers to the thickness of the rule.
A "1 point rule" or "2 point rule" specified in the applicable figure of the Directory of Nutrition Facts Table Formats may be displayed with larger dimensions in the NFt [B.01.450(4), FDR].
Some common point measures in the Standard Formats for rule size or "thickness" have been converted below:
- 0.5 point =0.18 mm
- 1 point = 0.35 mm
- 2.5 point = 0.88 mm
Absence of Rules in Smaller Formats
For most formats, other than the horizontal and linear formats, there are thin lines (rules) between the mineral declarations. However, with the smallest versions of most bilingual formats, the lines between the mineral declarations are not present (see images below) [Figures 3.5 - 3.7, 9.5 - 9.6, 11.5 - 11.6, 13.5 - 13.6, 22.5 - 22.7, 28.5, 30.5 - 30.6, Directory of Nutrition Facts Table Formats]. The bilingual horizontal format Figure 4.5(B) is the sole horizontal format that has rules between the mineral declarations.
The absence of rules in smaller formats would apply to any of the additional vitamins and minerals that may be included in the NFt beneath the mandatory declaration of potassium, calcium and iron.
In the Standard Format [Figure 1.1(E)], "Saturated" is listed under "Fat". It has been indented 6 points. The 6 point indent is measured from the "F" in Fat, not from the edge of the box that is around the Nutrition Facts table (NFt).
Note the specification to the right of the NFt box illustrated in the Standard Format [Figure 1.1(E)]. It explains that the edges of the enclosing box are "3 points of text" away from the type: "Text enclosed by a box with a 0.5 point rule within 3 points of text". Therefore, the word "Fat" must be 3 points from the edge of the box, making the word "Saturated" 9 points from the edge of the box.
Some common point measures in the standard formats for indent/spacing size have been converted below:
- 3 points of text = 1.06 mm
- 5 point spacing = 1.76 mm
- 6 point indent = 2.12 mm
Colour in the Nutrition Facts Table
Colour of Type
In the Nutrition Facts table (NFt), both characters and lines (rules) must be displayed in a single colour that is equivalent to 100% black on a white or neutral background. Backgrounds may have a maximum 5% tint [B.01.450(2), FDR].
If black ink has been used in the printing process, then the NFt should be printed in black. However, another dark colour will suffice when black has not been used. Dark blue, dark brown and dark green are acceptable. Light green, red, orange, yellow, silver and reverse printing (white printing on a dark background) are not acceptable.
For example, the light green print used in the NFt below is not acceptable. (Note: This image is used solely to illustrate this concept; however it does not meet all current regulatory requirements).
Note that with some printing processes, dots of colour are printed on the edge of the packaging. These dots indicate the colours that have been used in printing the label. If black has been used, the NFt should be printed in black.
For example, the dots on the container below indicate that black has been used in the printing of this label. Since black ink has been used, the NFt should be printed in black and not in blue, as seen below. (Note: This image is used solely to illustrate this concept; however it does not meet all current regulatory requirements).
The background colour in the NFt should be white or neutral, with a maximum 5% tint. This level of tint provides only a slight colour to a background.
For example, the NFt below has a background with more than 5% tint. Backgrounds with more than 5% tint are not permitted.
Dark backgrounds are also not permitted, such as in reverse print shown in the image below (white print on a dark background). In general, neither are clear backgrounds, where the colour is provided by the product underneath the clear packaging.
However, some exceptions do occur. Because of the nature of the packaging material, fibre and Styrofoam egg cartons and brown paper bread bags are not required to have a white background. The NFt may be printed directly onto these surfaces without the application of a background colour as shown in the images below. (Note: These images are used solely to illustrate this concept; however they may not meet all current regulatory requirements).
If the background of a package is the same colour as the box around the NFt, that is, the background colour is the visual equivalent of 100% black, it is acceptable that this be continuous with the 0.5 rule box around the NFt. In other words, no gap is needed around the NFt to make it visibly separated. This is because the background colour is outside of the NFt where the format specifications do not apply. However, if there is a possibility that the colour may bleed (or in printing terminology "get trapped") into the white NFt background this would not be acceptable as it would impact on the NFt meeting the format specifications.
Crowding of Information and/or Narrowing the Nutrition Facts Table
While the width of the Nutrition Facts table (NFt) is not prescribed by the FDR, the information must remain clear and legible at all times. Consequently, while the narrowing of the NFt is not prohibited, care must be taken to ensure that information does not become overcrowded. If the tables are narrowed by taking away white space, this must be done without any impact on the size of the characters or leading within the NFt. Furthermore, the two columns of information in the NFt, i.e. the left column indicating nutrients and their absolute amounts and the right column "% Daily Value", should not touch or overlap. This may also become a concern when normal width Nutrition Facts tables use fonts that have wider, more rounded characters than those of the Helvetica or Arial fonts. Although not set out in the Nutrition Facts Table Formats section, there should be a minimum of 2 spaces separating the left column and the "% Daily Value" column on the right. In the example below, there is no space between the two columns. Crowding of information within the NFt as shown is not acceptable.
Adjusting the Nutrition Facts Table Rectangle
The Nutrition Facts table (NFt) may be widened. However, care should be taken not to widen the table so much that it becomes difficult to read. Readers must be able to visibly follow a line of information from the nutrient name to the % DV column. If the tables are widened by adding white space, this must be done without any impact on the size of the characters or leading within the NFt. If the tables are wider and taller by increasing the type size of the characters within the table, all of the information must be proportionately enlarged in a uniform manner.
When labels are widened to improve their appearance on the container (e.g., to fit the side of a package), it may be advisable to choose a larger version of the NFt, to facilitate legibility. Spacing between letters should not be distorted to widen the table.
Care should be taken to ensure that legibility is not compromised when widening the NFt.
Tapering the Nutrition Facts Table to Follow the Form of the Container
The Directory of Nutrition Facts Table Formats clearly sets out the form of the NFt – a rectangle with straight sides and right angled corners. The shape of the NFt may not be modified to follow the shape of the container, as shown below. (Note: These images are used solely to illustrate this concept; however they do not meet all current regulatory requirements).
Dividing the Nutrition Facts Table
In some cases, the manufacturer may wish to divide the Nutrition Facts table (NFt) into two parts. This is allowed only when additional information is provided. If the available display surface is not adequate to accommodate any additional information beneath the mandatory declaration of potassium, calcium and iron, the remaining information may be moved to the upper right corner, enclosed by a box with a 0.5 point rule that shares its left rule with the table. The NFt may be divided after any nutrient beneath iron, as long as the remaining information is moved to the upper right corner, as shown below.
A basic NFt with core information cannot be divided into two parts. When it is absolutely impossible to fit a Standard Format (Standard, Narrow Standard or Bilingual Standard) that contains only core and triggered additional information on 15% of the Available Display Surface (ADS) and on one continuous surface (definition) in a manner that will not cause damage to the product when the package is manipulated to view the NFt, then a Bilingual Horizontal Format may be used.
Destruction of the Nutrition Facts Table Upon Opening of Package
The Nutrition Facts table (NFt) must not be placed in an area where it will be destroyed when the package is opened. This prohibition does not apply to single serving containers of food, such as a can of soft drink or a single frozen entrée. The NFt must not be printed on the tear strip or on the neck of these bottles as in all cases the NFt is destroyed when the package is opened, as seen in the examples below. (Note: These images are used solely to illustrate this concept; however they do not meet all current regulatory requirements).
If the NFt is placed on the top of a yogurt six-pack, such as that shown in the images below, care must be taken that it will not be destroyed upon opening. The NFt should not exceed the lid of one individual container. (Note: These images are used solely to illustrate this concept; however they do not meet all current regulatory requirements).
Single Use Containers
Certain containers are considered single use containers (definition). These containers are always discarded after opening and are never used to store the left over contents, e.g., fish or meat cans that are opened with a key, cake mixes. As these packages are thrown away after opening, the NFt may be placed over the metal tear strip, even though the NFt will be destroyed upon opening (see image below). (Note: This image is used solely to illustrate this concept; however it does not meet all current regulatory requirements).
If manufacturers choose to place the NFt over the tear strip, then each side of the can is considered as one continuous surface (definition) of ADS and the size of the NFt is determined accordingly (i.e., choose the largest version of the NFt that will fit on 15% of the ADS and one continuous surface).
Note, however, that containers such as the meat can illustrated above require careful treatment. While the ADS of the can does not change, there are two acceptable methods of assessing the area that constitutes "one continuous surface", because the metal strip that opens the can essentially divides large continuous surfaces of ADS into smaller areas of ADS.
- If the NFt is placed over the tear strip (the manufacturer has chosen to ignore the tear strip), the product is treated as if it has four large continuous panels. That is, each side of the can is considered as one continuous surface. The size of the NFt is determined accordingly.
- If, however, the manufacturer chooses to place the NFt elsewhere on the can (not over the tear strip), then the metal tear strip divides the sides of the can into eight smaller areas of continuous ADS. The size of the NFt is determined accordingly. In this scenario, a smaller NFt may be acceptable. See the Nutrition Facts Table Formats section for more details about the decision trees.
Abbreviations and Symbols in the Nutrition Facts Table
Public consultations have supported the idea that readers often have problems with comprehension when abbreviations are used. The number of abbreviations permitted in the Nutrition Facts table (NFt) is therefore limited to the following:
- "% Daily Value" or "% DV" for the English expression "Percent Daily Value";
- "% valeur quotidienne" or "% VQ" for the French expression "pourcentage de la valeur quotidienne";
- "Vit" for vitamin;
- "kJ" for kilojoules.
The use of the abbreviated forms "% DV" or "% VQ" should be restricted to the specific NFt figures in which they are permitted, as outlined in the Directory of Nutrition Facts Table Formats.
Note that within the NFt, the "% Daily Value" and "% valeur quotidienne" subheading is followed by an asterisk (*) in order to reference the interpretative statement shown at the bottom of the NFt (i.e., "* 5% or less is a little, 15% or more is a lot"; "* 5% ou moins c'est peu, 15% ou plus c'est beaucoup).
When the abbreviated form "% DV" and "% VQ" subheading is used within the NFt instead of the long form "% Daily Value" and "% valeur quotidienne", the asterisk (*) that follows it also links the abbreviation to an explanation of its meaning, elsewhere within the table (i.e., * DV = Daily Value; * VQ = valeur quotidienne), as shown in the example below.
The following symbols for units of measure must be used within the NFt and are considered bilingual:
- grams (g)
- millilitres (mL)
- milligrams (mg)
For the serving size information, Column 3B of the Table of Reference Amounts for Food prescribes the units that must be used for expressing the household measure with the following abbreviations being required for the terms within brackets below:
- tsp (in English, for teaspoon)
- tbsp (in English, for tablespoon)
- c. à thé (in French, for cuillère à thé)
- c. à soupe (in French, for cuillère à soupe)
Presentation of Certain Additional Information in the NFT
Energy value may be declared in kilojoules (kJ), within parentheses, after the declaration of Calories as additional information.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Note, that when omega-3, omega-6 and monounsaturates are declared, they line up with the "saturated + trans" declaration. However, when polyunsaturates are also declared the omega-3 and omega-6 are further indented. These two scenarios can be seen in the images below.
Tailoring of the Linear format and Language Specifications
The Linear Format is a rectangle. However, it may be tailored to the available space on the label and the outer dimensions of the package. Depending on the amount of information presented and the configuration of the label, the Linear Format may appear in different shapes, e.g., rectangle or square. Consequently, use of the templates for the Linear Format is limited.
The NFt below is in a square form of the linear format. It is acceptable to have a square-shaped linear NFt.
Both the English and French information may be in one box. However, all the information in one language must precede all the information in the second language. Languages may not be mixed. The image below displays an acceptable NFt in which the English and French linear NFt have been placed in one single box.
This NFt in the example below is incorrect: languages cannot be mixed in the Linear Format.
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