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Chapter 2
Basic Labelling Requirements
Sections 2.10-2.18


2.10 Artificial Flavours [34, CPLR]

When an artificial flavour (e.g., artificial apple flavour) is added to a food, whether alone or with natural flavouring agents, and a vignette on a food label suggests the natural flavour source (e.g., picture of an apple), a declaration that the added flavouring ingredient is an imitation, artificial or simulated flavour must appear on or adjacent to the vignette in both French and English. (See 3.3 of this Guide, Impressions and Vignettes.) This regulation applies to foods packaged for sale to consumers. The information must be in at least the same type height as that required for the numerals in the net quantity declaration. (See 2.6.1 of this Guide for Minimum Type Height for Net Quantity.)

2.11 Durable Life Date [B.01.007]

"Durable life" is the period, starting on the day a food is packaged for retail sale, that the food will retain its normal wholesomeness, palatability and nutritional value, when it is stored under conditions appropriate for that product.

A durable life date ("best-before" date) is required on prepackaged foods with a durable life of 90 days or less, with the following exceptions:

  • Prepackaged fresh fruits and vegetables;
  • Prepackaged individual portions of food served by restaurants, airlines, etc. with meals or snacks;
  • Prepackaged individual servings of food prepared by a commissary and sold in automatic vending machines or mobile canteens; and
  • Prepackaged donuts.

2.11.1 Foods Packaged at Other Than Retail

When a food packaged at other than retail has a durable life of 90 days or less, a "best before"/"meilleur avant" date, and storage instructions (if they differ from normal room storage conditions), must be declared in both French and English on any panel except the bottom of the container. The date, however, may be placed on the bottom of the container, as long as a clear indication of its location is shown elsewhere on the label. [B.01.005 (4)]

The bilingual symbols for the months in the durable life date are as follows:

JA for JANUARY
FE for FEBRUARY
MR for MARCH
AL for APRIL
MA for MAY
JN for JUNE
JL for JULY
AU for AUGUST
SE for SEPTEMBER
OC for OCTOBER
NO for NOVEMBER
DE for DECEMBER

If the year is required for clarity, the durable life date must be given with the year first (at least the last two digits), followed by the month and then the day. An example of an acceptable declaration is as follows:

Best before
04 JN 28
Meilleur avant

2.11.2 Foods Packaged at Retail

Retail-packed foods with a durable life of 90 days or less may be labelled with either a durable life date and any necessary storage instructions, or a packaging date and accompanying durable life information, on the label or on a poster next to the food.

2.12 Previously Frozen [B.01.080]

The words "previously frozen" must appear on the principle display panel or on an adjacent sign if frozen single ingredient meat or poultry (and their by-products), or single ingredient meat of any marine or fresh water animal (including fish) has been thawed prior to sale. Fish or other seafood which has been Frozen at Sea (FAS) and thawed prior to deboning, filleting, etc. must be labelled with a "previously frozen" statement.

Where part of a food referred to above has been frozen and thawed prior to sale, the words "made from fresh and frozen portions" or "made from fresh and frozen (naming the food)" shall be shown in the same manner as described above.

2.13 Standard Container Sizes [36, CPLR ]

Container sizes have been standardized under the CPLR for certain foods prepackaged for sale to consumers. These foods are listed in 2.13.1 of this Guide. In addition, the Canada Agricultural Products Act, the Fish Inspection Act and the Meat Inspection Act have established standard sizes for selected fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, dairy, honey and maple products, fish and selected meat and poultry products.

2.13.1 Standard Container Sizes for Wine, Syrups and Peanut Butter [36, CPLR]

  1. wine
    • 50, 100, 200, 250, 375, 500 or 750 ml
    • 1, 1.5, 2, 3 or 4 litre
  2. glucose syrup and refined sugar syrup
    • 125, 250, 375, 500 or 750 ml
    • 1 litre, 1.5 litres
    • more than 1.5 litres - multiples of 1 litre
  3. peanut butter
    • 250, 375, 500, 750 g
    • 1, 1.5, 2 kg

2.14 Other Mandatory Information

Other mandatory information may be required depending on the food or the types of claims being made, e.g., percent alcohol by volume for alcoholic beverages [Division 2, FDR ], percent milk fat for some dairy products [Division 8, FDR ], percent acetic acid for vinegars [Division 19, FDR ], a declaration that a food contains or is sweetened with aspartame [Division 1, FDR], etc. Nutrient content declarations are required when nutrient content statements or claims are made (see Chapter 5 of this Guide). As with all mandatory information on labels, such statements must be in both French and English as required by B.01.012.

2.14.1 Food Irradiation

There are two aspects of food irradiation which are subject to federal controls: safety and labelling.

Division 26 of the Food and Drug Regulations recognizes food irradiation as a food process. From a safety perspective, Health Canada is responsible for regulations specifying which foods may be irradiated and the treatment levels permitted.

See the following Table 2-2 for the foods which may be irradiated and sold in Canada [B.26.003]

Irradiated Foods Which May be Sold in Canada
Table 2-2

Item Food Purpose of Treatment
1. Potatoes To inhibit sprouting during storage
2. Onions To inhibit sprouting during storage
3. Wheat, flour, whole wheat flour To control insect infestation in stored food
4. Whole or ground spices and dehydrated seasoning preparations To reduce microbial load

Regulations for the labelling of irradiated foods are administered by the CFIA and apply equally to all domestic and imported foods in Canada. The labelling regulations as outlined in the Food and Drug Regulations [B.01.035] require the identification of wholly irradiated foods with both a written statement such as "irradiated" or "treated with radiation" or "treated by irradiation" and the international symbol:

irradiation symbol

Ingredients that constitute more than 10 percent of the final food must be identified in the list of ingredients as "irradiated". Signs accompanying bulk, displays of irradiated foods are also required to carry the same identification as that shown on package labels. Advertisements for irradiated foods must clearly reveal that the food has been irradiated.

Shipping containers also require the identification of wholly irradiated foods with a written statement such as "irradiated" or "treated with radiation" or "treated by irradiation" but do not require the international symbol.

2.15 Labels of Shipping Containers [B.01.012]

Labels of shipping containers, such as those for commercial, industrial or institutional use, are exempt from bilingual labelling requirements. Shipping containers, for the purposes of this section, include both the outer cases and inner packages providing these are not for sale to consumers. Containers used to ship prepackaged retail food products may show the mandatory information in either official language if these containers are not sold directly to consumers. It is recommended that the labelling information be provided in the language of the client, but this is not required. Such products require a net quantity declaration under the Weights and Measures Act in either metric or Canadian measure. All other labelling information, as required by the FDR, must be provided as indicated in this document, including a list of ingredients.

2.16 Test Market Foods [6(1), CPLR; B.01.012]

In general, a Test Market Food must comply with current legislation in all respects, except for the bilingual labelling requirement and standardized container sizes under the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations. Note: Other sets of regulations may also permit Test Market Foods, requirements should be verified with the applicable legislation.

By regulation, for a food to be granted a Test Market Food status, it must never have been sold in Canada in that form and must differ substantially from any other food sold in Canada with respect to its composition, function, state or packaging form. A Test Market Food includes food for which a manufacturer or distributor has been issued a Temporary Marketing Authorization Letter under FDR (see 2.17 of this Guide).

A dealer wishing to conduct a test market must, six weeks prior to conducting the test market, file a Notice of Intention to Test Market in the prescribed form and manner. The Notice of Intention to Test Market should be completed on company letterhead and should include the following:

  1. A description of the prepackaged product, together with submission of a sample in prepackaged form or alternatively, an illustration of the prepackaged product and the label;
  2. The quantity to be distributed;
  3. The period of time for test marketing (maximum period is 12 months); and
  4. The geographic area or region in which the test market is to be conducted.
    • An entire province is considered too large an area for test-market purposes.
    • Cities are generally accepted, provided they do not include a "local government unit" where either French or English is the "mother tongue" of 10 percent or more of the population and provided the mandatory label information is to be shown only in the other official language.
    • Census information regarding potentially-restricted areas may be obtained from:

      Statistics Canada
      General Enquiries
      R.H. Coates Building
      Tunney's Pasture
      Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0T6
      Telephone 613-951-8116
      or
      http://www.statcan.ca

  5. Dealers must also include information, with supporting data, to substantiate that the test market product was not previously sold in Canada in that form and to establish that it differs substantially from any other product sold in Canada with respect to its composition, function, state or packaging form.

The Notice of Intention to Test Market should be addressed to:

Director, Consumer Protection
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
1400 Merivale Road
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0Y9

2.17 Temporary Marketing Authorization Letter [B.01.054, B.01.055]

There is a distinction between a Test Market Food (see 2.16 of this Guide) and a food which has received Temporary Marketing Authorization.

A Temporary Marketing Authorization Letter (TMAL), issued by the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Health Products and Food Branch, Health Canada, authorizes the sale of a food that does not meet one or more of the compositional, packaging, labelling or advertising requirements under the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations. The authorization is granted for a specified period of time, within a designated area and in a specified quantity for a specific manufacturer or distributor. A TMAL does not exempt foods from the requirements under the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and Regulations.

The purpose of a Temporary Marketing Authorization is to generate information in support of a proposed amendment to the Food and Drug Regulations.

For example, as a condition for obtaining a TMAL for the use of non-permitted labelling on a food, the companies involved agree:

  • to use only those non-permitted labelling statements approved by the Health Products and Food Branch,
  • to use these to carry out studies to determine consumer attitudes to the labelling and advertising material, and
  • to submit the results of these studies to the Health Products and Food Branch.

Once the TMAL is issued, those manufacturers or producers of foods which are subject to mandatory label registration through the CFIA (such as registered meats and processed products), will be expected to follow normal procedures to register their labels (see Chapter 1 of this Guide).

Applications for a Temporary Marketing Authorization Letter and questions regarding any procedural details in applying for the TMAL should be addressed to:

Submission Management and Information Unit
Food Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch
Health Canada
251 Sir Frederick Banting Driveway
Postal Locator 2202E
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K9

Phone: 613-960-0552
Fax: 613-946-4590
Email address: smiu-ugdi@hc-sc.gc.ca

2.18 Interim Marketing Authorization [B.01.056 FDR and Section 30.2(6) FDA]

The Interim Marketing Authorization (IMA), allows the sale of foods not in compliance with the regulations while an amendment to permit their ongoing legal sale is being processed. Permission is given through the publication of a Notice of Interim Marketing Authorization in Canada Gazette Part I. Information on the criteria for eligibility and the dates during which an IMA is effective can be found on Health Canada's web site at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/legislation/ima-amp/index-eng.php. A list of products that currently have IMA's can also be found there.

For more information, contact:

Submission Management and Information Unit
Food Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch
Health Canada
251 Sir Frederick Banting Driveway
Postal Locator 2202E
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K9

Phone: 613-960-0552
Fax: 613-946-4590
Email address: smiu-ugdi@hc-sc.gc.ca

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