On December 14, 2016, Health Canada published amendments to nutrition labeling, a list of ingredients, and food color requirements of the “Food and Drug Regulations” in Canada Gazette Part II. The key changes, being implemented on a 5-year schedule, must be met by December 2021. They relate to:
- New requirements regarding the legibility of ingredient lists
- Grouping of sugars in the list of ingredients
- Various changes to information contained in the Nutrition Facts table (NFt)
- New requirements for how food colors are declared
- Removal of the requirement for certification of synthetic colors
- Incorporation by reference of daily values, templates for the NFt formats, reference amounts, serving sizes, and most food color specifications
These amendments provided a 5-year transition period for regulated parties to meet the new labeling requirements, ending on December 14, 2021. Amendments dealing with food color specifications and removal of the synthetic color certification requirement came into effect immediately at the time of publication of the amendments.
After the transition period, in the first year, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will focus its efforts on education and compliance promotion, until December 14, 2022. After that date, the CFIA will verify compliance and apply enforcement discretion in cases of noncompliance when regulated parties have a detailed plan that shows how they intend to comply at the earliest possible time, and no later than December 14, 2023.
Regulated parties may apply either the former regulations or the new regulations over the 5-year transition period. Health Canada and the CFIA have developed a phased implementation plan for this transition period.
The key activities for each phase are included below.
Phase I (December 14, 2016 – May 10, 2018)
The publication of these amendments in Canada Gazette Part II marked the beginning of Phase I.
Phase II (May 11, 2018 – December 14, 2021)
This began in mid-May 2018 when the role of responding to inquiries on the new requirements transitioned from Health Canada to the CFIA and continues until the end of the transition period on December 14 this year. CFIA will be focused on education and promoting compliance with the new requirements.
Phase III (December 15, 2021 – December 14, 2022)
Phase III will mark the end of the transition period. The former regulations will stop as of December 15 this year. During this phase, CFIA will continue to focus on education and promoting compliance with the new requirements.
Compliance and enforcement after December 14, 2022
CFIA inspection activities will monitor compliance with the new labeling requirements for prepackaged products that are imported, manufactured in Canada, or packaged at retail after December 14, 2022. The CFIA will apply enforcement discretion in cases where regulated parties have a detailed plan showing how they intend to meet the new requirements at the earliest possible time, and no later than December 14, 2023. A “detailed plan” could be similar to a corrective action plan that regulated parties provide in response to a report of noncompliance, but has a compliance date no later than December 14, 2023.
Regulated parties must comply with the new labeling provisions after the compliance date of December 14, 2022, or any other date established in their detailed plan. Products imported, manufactured in Canada, or packaged at retail before that date can remain in the warehouse and continue to be sold on store shelves.
Throughout all phases of the implementation plan, including the 2 years after the end of the transition period, the CFIA may take action if there are cases of inaccurate, false, or misleading labeling information. In addition, Health Canada will conduct health risk assessments in support of CFIA’s compliance activities and continue to provide guidance on the interpretation of these regulatory amendments.