Everything you always wanted to know about food labelling but didn't know who to ask

  Winter 2016: Everything you always wanted to know about food labelling...
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 When it comes to safe food practices, rules and regulations abound! And for good reason. A successful relationship between producer and consumer is based on consistently supplying safe, high-quality products in a clean, customer-friendly environment.
Producers and processors must be aware of the federal and provincial legislative requirements for producing and marketing agri-food products. You need to know and adhere to the legislation that applies to your farm direct marketing operation. Failure to comply may lead to fines or other penalties and possibly decreased sales.

In addition to following safe food practices when preparing your product, you must also apply the same attention to detail when labelling the package. Including the correct information will build trust among your customers, thereby encouraging return business, as well as helping to reduce the number of expensive, potentially debilitating food recalls that may occur.

In 2015, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued 124 recalls for 445 products. In addition to the health hazard these recalls pose to the consumer, they also impose a heavy toll on the producer—in the form of lost revenue, marketplace reputation and costs.

In general terms, labeling legislation is federal—it is developed by Health Canada and enforced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

There are three primary pieces of labeling legislation: the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and Regulations (FDR) which covers all foods and all levels of trade; the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act (CPLA) and Regulations (CPLR) which covers prepackaged (retail) food; the Weights and Measurements Act (WMA) and Regulations (WMAR) which cover non-consumer prepackaged foods (food service, further manufacture).

Your business may be subject to other legislation depending on your level of trade (provincial, federal or export as well as retail vs further manufacturing) and the type of product you produce (e.g. organic, meat and fish products from federally registered plants). The Canada Agricultural Products Act (CAPA) and Regulations (CAPR), which is specific legislation for federally inspected agriculture products, includes labeling for eggs as well as dairy and honey products.

However, please keep in mind that as the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA), comes into force, it and its regulations (SFCAR) when complete, will replace the three pieces of legislation currently in place. The main difference will be that the SFCA/SFCR will cover all foods and will not distinguish between different food products.

Although not part of the SFCA, Health Canada (HC) recently announced proposed changes to labeling legislation, specifically the Food and Drug Regulations:

1. In June 2015 HC proposed updates to the ingredient and Nutrition Facts Table requirements. HC is making adjustments to the proposal based on the feedback received; the final regulatory amendments are targeted to be published by the end of this year.

2. As part of Healthy Eating Strategy approach, HC launched a consultation on Front-of-Package (FOP) nutrition labeling. The FOP labelling will highlight sodium, sugars and saturated fat on the front of the package.

The following links provide more complete information on the topics discussed here:

General Legislation: http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex15139/$file/844_1apr15.pdf

Food Labels: http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex15164/$file/844-2_web.pdf

Food Claims: http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex15368/$file/844_3_web.pdf

Food Recalls: https://www.burtonsoftware.com/MediaContentItem/Details/63.

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Eileen Kotowich.
This information published to the web on December 8, 2016.