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Decisions: Fats, Oils and Fatty Acids


Common name of canola-quality oil derived from Brassica juncea

Question: Brassica juncea has traditionally been considered a mustard plant and a source of mustard oil. It is closely related to varieties that have traditionally been considered rapeseed, or canola, plants. Recently a "canola quality" version of Brassica juncea was developed by lowering the erucic acid content. The resulting oil produced from this variety has a fatty acid profile very similar to that of canola oil.  Is there any objection to the use of the common name "canola oil" to describe the oil produced by the plant?

Answer: There is no objection to the common name "canola oil" on the label of the oil produced from low erucic acid Brassica juncea.

In 1999, the Codex Committee on Fats and Oils recognized Brassica juncea as a source of low erucic acid rapeseed oil in the "Standard for Named Vegetables Oils", as follows:

2.1.13 - Rapeseed Oil - (Low Erucic Acid) - (low erucic acid turnip rape oil; low erucic acid colza oil; canola oil) is produced from low erucic acid oil-bearing seeds of varieties derived from the Brassica napus L., Brassica campestris L. and Brassica juncea L., species.

According to the Food and Drug Regulations definition (b), "common name" means "the name prescribed by any other regulations". As there is no prescribed name for the oil of this plant in the Food and Drug Regulations or any other federal legislation, any of the names prescribed in the Codex Standard would be acceptable.

Under the Seeds Regulations administered and enforced by CFIA, seeds must be labelled with the name of kind or species of the seed. In addition, a variety name must be present on the label if applicable. CFIA's Variety Registration Office recognizes the name "Canola quality, Brassica juncea" for this plant and lists it under "canola" on their website index of varieties registered in Canada.  This approach is also consistent with CFIA's Feed Section with respect to the meal derived from Brassica juncea.  This product has gone through a novel food assessment by Health Canada.

(Headquarters, September 2002)


Status of Mid-Oleic Sunflower Oil

Question: i.) Is mid-oleic sunflower seed oil approved for sale, or for use as a food ingredient, in Canada? This sunflower seed oil has been developed to contain oleic acid levels that differ from traditional sunflower seed oil.

ii.) Is the common name "mid-oleic sunflower seed oil" acceptable?

Answer:  i. ) In May 2003, Health Canada issued a letter of no-objection to the sale of of the novel food "mid-oleic sunflower seed oil" with the trade name NuSun. See Health Canada's website for details. Now that Health Canada's pre-market notification and safety assessment requirements have been completed, the sale of this specific product, or its use as an ingredient, is authorized in Canada.

ii.) The common name "mid-oleic sunflower oil" is acceptable for an oil that meets the standard for that product in the Codex Standard for Named Vegetable Oils. This common name would trigger a declaration of the amount of oleic acid in grams per stated serving size outside the Nutrition Facts table [Food and Drug Regulations B.01.301 (1)], as well as a monounsaturated fatty acid and omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid declaration in the Nutrition Facts table [Food and Drug Regulations B.01.402(3)]. (updated January/2004)


Common Name of Modified Oil Mixtures

Question: What common name can be used on the principal display panel of a mixture of regular and modified vegetable oils.

Answer: Mixtures of regular and modified vegetable oils can be called "modified vegetable oil" on the principal display panel. Alternatively, a common name can be used which incorporates the individual ingredients of the product.

For example, a mixture of 95% canola oil and 5% modified sunflower oil could be called either "modified vegetable oil" or "canola oil and modified sunflower oil". When the common name "modified vegetable oil" is used, a list of ingredients naming the individual oils is also required. However, when the common name "canola oil and modified sunflower oil" is used, it is considered to be both the common name and the list of ingredients. This means that a separate list of ingredients is not required, provided there are no ingredients other than the oils mentioned. (18/May/93)


Common Name of Single Source Vegetable Oils

Question: What common name is required on the principal display panel of a vegetable oil that contains only one oil, e.g., 100% canola oil?

Answer: The common name of a vegetable oil that contains only one oil must be shown on the principal display panel of the oil by the specific name of the one oil present, i.e., "(naming the source) oil". For example, the common name of 100% canola oil must be shown on the principal display panel as "canola oil". The general term "vegetable oil" is not acceptable by itself, although it may appear in addition to "canola oil".

In general, when a "(naming the source) oil" is used as an ingredient in another food, it may be listed in the list of ingredients either specifically by name, e.g., "canola oil", or as "vegetable oil". There are two exceptions, however: if the oil is an ingredient of a cooking oil, salad oil or table oil, the oil must be specifically named in the ingredient list, e.g., "canola oil", and the general term "vegetable oil" is not acceptable (B.09.010); if the vegetable oil is coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, peanut oil or cocoa butter, the oil must be specifically named in the ingredient list, and the general term "vegetable oil" is not acceptable (B.01.010. (3)(b) Item 1). (11/May/92)

If the single oil has been modified or hydrogenated, the common name on the principal display panel must include the word "modified" or "hydrogenated", as appropriate, e.g., "hydrogenated canola oil", "hydrogenated palm kernel oil", etc. The common name in the list of ingredients must include the word "modified" or "hydrogenated", as appropriate, e.g., "hydrogenated canola oil", "hydrogenated palm kernel oil", etc., and the general term "modified vegetable oil" may be permitted in some cases.


Shortening as an Ingredient

Question: When shortening contains vegetable oil, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or lard what common name is required in the list of ingredients of a food containing the shortening? Does it have to be described as "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated"?

Answer: Shortening containing vegetable oil or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil must be listed in the list of ingredients of a food as "vegetable oil shortening" (unless it contains one of those fats and oils that must be mentioned by name, e.g., coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, cocoa butter, peanut oil). Shortening containing lard should be called "lard shortening".

Shortening does not have to be qualified in a list of ingredients as "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated". (09/Dec /92)


Common Name of Multi Source Vegetable Oils

Question: Is the common name "vegetable oil" acceptable for a vegetable oil that contains more than one kind of oil?

Answer: Yes, "vegetable oil" is an acceptable common name for a vegetable oil that contains more than one type of oil.

In general, when vegetable oil containing more than one kind of vegetable oil is used as an ingredient in another food, it may be listed in the list of ingredients as "vegetable oil". There are two exceptions,: if the vegetable oils are ingredients of a cooking oil, salad oil or table oil, the oils must be specifically named in the ingredient list, e.g., "canola oil", "corn oil", "safflower oil", etc., and the general term "vegetable oil" is not acceptable (B.09.010); if any of the vegetable oils are coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, peanut oil or cocoa butter, the oils must be specifically named in the ingredient list, and the general term "vegetable oil" is not acceptable (B.01.010. (3)(b) Item 1). (11/May/92)

When two or more vegetable oils are present and one or more of them has been modified or hydrogenated, the common name on the principal display panel and in the list of ingredients must include the word "modified" or "hydrogenated", as appropriate, e.g., "modified vegetable oil", "hydrogenated vegetable oil", "modified palm kernel oil", etc. (B.01.010.(3)(a), Items 13 and 14). (25/Nov /92)


Fatty Acids - Hydrogenated

Question: Can microwaveable popcorn claim that it is "popped in 100% corn oil" when hydrogenated corn oil is used?

Answer: No, microwaveable popcorn cannot claim that it is "popped in 100% corn oil", if it is actually popped in hydrogenated corn oil. The claim must more appropriately read "popped in hydrogenated 100% corn oil". (14/Jan /91)


Unhydrogenated Vegetable Oil in the Ingredient List

Question: Is it acceptable to use adjectives and descriptive phrases to describe nutrient content characteristics of an ingredient in the list of ingredients, e.g., "unhydrogenated vegetable oil"?

Answer: No, it is not acceptable to use adjectives and descriptive phrases to describe nutrient content characteristics of an ingredient in the list of ingredients. The acceptable common name of an ingredient is the only information that should appear in the list, unless a particular adjective or descriptive phrase is prescribed by regulation.


Medium Chain Triglycerides

Question: Are "medium chain triglycerides" allowed in Canada both as a food and as an ingredient to be added to foods? What common name is required on the principal display panel of medium chain triglycerides and in the list of ingredients? Can any claims be made for them?

Answer: Medium chain triglycerides are allowed for use both as a food and in foods added as ingredients.  

When sold as a food, the acceptable common name is "Medium Chain Triglycerides". The abbreviation "MCT " is not acceptable. A label declaration of the source of the medium chain triglycerides, preferably on the principal display panel, is also recommended to alert allergic or sensitive individuals, e.g., "modified coconut oil".

When medium chain triglycerides are added as an ingredient of foods, the acceptable common name in the list of ingredients must reflect the source of the medium chain triglycerides, e.g., "modified coconut oil" when fractionated coconut oil is the source. Refer to the Food and Drug Regulations, section B.01.010 (3)(a), Items 13, 17, 18 and 19, for other prescribed names. It is recommended that the words "medium chain triglycerides" be shown in brackets after the ingredient to identify the product of the modification, e.g., "modified coconut oil (medium chain triglycerides)".  

The main constituent fatty acids of medium chain triglycerides are caprylic acid (C8) and capric acid (C10). These fatty acids are naturally occurring in significant amounts in milk fat, palm kernel and coconut oil. Commercial medium chain triglyceride products are frequently made from fractionated coconut oil. Claims for caprylic acid or capric acid are not permitted.

Medium chain triglyceride products have been in use in formulated liquid diets and infant formula for some time. Their more recent use has been in or as a sports nutritional supplement. Claims as to their function, assimilation effects or benefits are not permitted. (updated: 2006)


Oleic Sunflower Seed Oil

Question: What is an acceptable common name for a product, such as sunflower seed oil, which is high in oleic acid, e.g. high oleic acid sunflower seed oil?

Answer: The common name "high-oleic sunflower oil" is acceptable for an oil that meets the standard for that product in the Codex Standard for Named Vegetable Oils. This common name would trigger a declaration of the amount of oleic acid in grams per stated serving size outside the Nutrition Facts table [Food and Drug Regulations B.01.301 (1)], as well as a monounsaturated fatty acid and omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid declaration in the Nutrition Facts table [Food and Drug Regulations B.01.402(3)].(updated: 2006)

FDR B.01.502(2)(i) provides for representations in the common name of a vegetable oil that characterize the amount of a fatty acid in the oil.