Designing a food label can be complicated — trying to balance what you want to communicate to consumers on-package with what is required by law to include can be an intimidating and evolving venture.
In this article we are going to outline what is required by the federal government to include on your food package, as dictated by Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and Regulations (FDR), Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act (CPLA) and Regulations, and Canada Agricultural Products Act (CAPA) and Regulations.
Note that individual one bite confections and a variety of packaging for fresh fruits and vegetables are generally food products that are exempt from these requirements.
Basic Labeling Requirements
• Found in bold on the principal display panel, excluding top and bottom.
• Written in French and English.
• Can't be misleading (e.g. using words that suggest product composition or locality that do not accurately represent the product).
• Must abide by any naming prescriptions outlined by FDR or other regulatory bodies (e.g. standardized foods; "lean ground meat").
For more info: CFIA - Common Name
• Declared quantity in metric units (grams, millilitres, kilograms, or litres) on the principal display panel.
For more info: CFIA - Net Quantity
• Nutrition facts table as prescribed by the CFIA to provide information on calories and 13 nutrients in a standardized format based on a serving size.
Exemptions: Alcoholic beverages, spices, vinegar, coffee, tea, unmodified whole fruits and vegetables, raw single ingredients animal/seafood products, if sold only at a road-side stand, craft show, flea market, fair, farmers' market by the individual who prepared and processed the product and a few others.
For more info: CFIA - Nutritional Labelling
PRODUCER IDENTITY + LOCATION
• Name and address of the processor/producer on any part of the package except the bottom.
For more info: CFIA - Identity and Principle Place of Business
Durable Life Date
• "Best before"date required on prepackaged foods that only keep fresh for 90 days or less.
Exemptions: prepackaged fresh fruits and vegetables, prepackaged donuts
• "Use by" date required for fresh yeast
• "Expiry" date required for special dietary use foods (e.g. infant formula)
Note: Storage instructions required for prepackaged products with a durable life of 90 days or less (e.g. "keep refrigerated,” “keep frozen” and “store in a cool, dry place") if they differ from normal room storage conditions.
For more info: CFIA - Date Markings and Storage Instructions
List of Ingredients + ALLERGENS
• Multi-ingredient prepackaged foods must list ingredients identified by their common names, including water, in descending order of proportion by weight.
Exemptions: Spices, seasonings and herbs (except salt), natural and artificial flavours, flavour enhancers, food additives, and vitamin and mineral nutrients and their derivatives or salts, which may be shown in any order at the end of the ingredient list.
• Disclosure if product contains or may contain eggs, sesame seeds, milk, soy, mustard, sulphites, peanuts, tree nuts, seafood, or wheat and other cereal grains containing gluten.
For more info: CFIA - List of Ingredients and allergens
• Mandatory information on food labels must be shown in both French and English except for the name and principal place of business of the company or person who produced or processed the product.
Exemptions: Local products sold within the municipality it was processed or the municipality adjacent to it.
For more info: CFIA - Bilingual Labelling
That's the core basics! There are further stipulations for sweeteners, irradiated foods, fortified foods, graded foods, requirements for claims and statements, and other food specific labeling requirements to also be aware of and familiarize yourself with.
Food companies must keep up with changing label requirements and it is important to be ready and able to adapt. Packaging can go beyond just checking the boxes of compliance — quality brand design and the creative incorporation of storytelling on-package are hugely influential for marketing, promotion, and advertisement.
Interested in exploring how to go beyond the package to tell your story and share more information consumers care about? Learn about our scannable graphics that link to your online Localize profile here. Not yet a Localized vendor? sign-up free.
Please be advised that this document is not fully comprehensive. Always refer to and consult with federal authorities to ensure your packaging meets all requirements for your unique product.
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Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. 2014.Farm Direct Marketing: Know the Regulations Food Labels. Retreived May 2, 2017, from: http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex15164/$file/844-2_web.pdf
Government of Canada, Canadian Food Inspection Agency. 2016. Labeling Requirements. Retreived May 1, 2017, from: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/labelling/food-labelling-for-industry/eng/1383607266489/1383607344939