Canada is moving forward on a new labeling mandate that would require front-of-package labeling, in addition to changes to nutrition facts labeling, for all foods and beverages sold by 2021. Health Canada recently issued a request for consultants to help develop the symbols, which will highlight the amount of sugar, sodium and saturated fat in each product in an effort to warn consumers that products high in these nutrients are a public health concern. The request said the development process will run through 2019.
Health Canada also released final regulations last December to update the nutrition information presented on all foods and beverages sold in the country. These changes included adding and deleting nutrient declarations, making serving sizes consistent, updating Daily Values and adding a requirement that sugar ingredients be grouped together in the ingredient list. Companies will have five years to comply with the new nutrition regulations and the mandatory front-of-package symbols.
Limited Focus Not Representative of Dairy
IDFA and its members selling into Canada are concerned that new symbols focused only on individual nutrients will not fairly communicate the benefits of nutrient-rich dairy foods and beverages. Health Canada has proposed four options for a front-of-pack symbol, including octagons, triangles and exclamation points. Since the octagons resemble stop signs and the triangles yield signs, the symbols could be interpreted as warning symbols, rather than educational information.
"Dairy has proteins, vitamins and minerals, and they all work together to provide a positive nutrient profile,” said Michelle Matto, IDFA’s consultant on labeling and nutrition. “If the symbols are too simple or look like a warning, that would be a concern for dairy products. Labeling is an important source of nutrition and health information, and it should reflect the full nutrient profile of a product so that consumers can make informed decisions.”
Exemptions for Some Dairy Products
In a consultation document, Canadian officials proposed that individual products containing more than 15 percent of the Daily Value for sugars, sodium or saturated fat be required to include symbols on the front panel. These levels would be 345 milligrams of sodium, 3 grams of saturated fat and 15 grams of total sugars per reference amount, or per 50 grams if the product’s reference amount is 50 grams or less. Exemptions from the saturated fat limit would be allowed for certain dairy products.
Partly skimmed milk (plain and flavored) and some cheeses will not have to display symbols for saturated fat content, but they would still need to meet the limits for sugars and sodium limits to avoid any symbols. Flavored milk, yogurt, cheese and frozen desserts all would require mandatory symbols.
IDFA will continue to monitor the progress for members. For more information, contact Matto at firstname.lastname@example.org.