Canada Clarifies Timelines for Anticipated Labeling Changes

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March 4, 2021Soraya VargasBlog

On 2 February 2021 Canada announced several clarifications regarding the timelines for the implementation of nutrition labeling changes. 

Timelines for the Implementation of Nutrition Labeling Changes

Canada nutrition labeling changes were published in 2016 and will officially enter into force on 14 December 2021 as scheduled, ending the five-year transition period. Accordingly, Canadian food labeling regulators – Health Canada (HC) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIS) – recently issued a notice to industry clarifying enforcement timelines. Further, CFIA published an implementation plan to explain the transition to the new nutrition labeling requirements:

  • For the period of 14 December 2021 to 14 December 2022, regulators will focus on educating stakeholders and promoting compliance.
  • From 14 December 2022 to 14 December 2023, regulators will exercise limited enforcement discretion in cases where manufacturers or importers have a detailed plan showing "the steps being taken to meet the new requirements at the earliest possible time, and no later than December 14, 2023," as well as "any actions taken to prevent or minimize risk to human health."

Consultations on Coordination of Future Food Labeling Changes

HC and CFIA have proposed aligning with U.S. labeling compliance intervals beginning on 1 January 2026 in order to establish a more predictable cycle for future changes. The interdepartmental Committee on Food Safety (CFS) – comprised of HC, CFIA, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) deputy heads – would convene semiannually to coordinate on regulatory changes affecting food labels. However, regulatory labeling changes "that address serious consumer deception or acute risks to health and safety" could still be implemented as needed, independent of the scheduled compliance intervals.

Additional Food Labeling Changes

Additional food labeling changes are expected to be announced by the fall of 2021:

  • Repeal of some standard container sizes
  • Incorporation by reference of remaining standard container sizes
  • Incorporation by reference of class names
  • Updated definition of test market food
  • Harmonized and streamlined food commodity-specific labeling requirements

Front-of-Package Labeling

Consultations on proposed front-of-package (FOP) labeling designs and proposed regulatory text closed on 26 April 2018. However, final regulations have not yet been published. Per the HC Forward Regulatory Plan 2020-2022, the publication of final regulations is expected in the fall of 2021. Based on previous information, a phase-in period of up to four years is expected.

Verisk 3E Analysis

Food manufacturers and processors that conduct business in Canada should be aware of these changes, as they may impact their compliance strategies.

HC and CFIA have developed a draft Joint Policy Statement, which can be obtained by emailing Comments on this proposal will be accepted until 3 April 2021 and can be submitted to the referenced email address.

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