New front-of-package nutrition symbol requirement for prepackaged foods

July 6, 2022
By Melanie Szweras and Iris Cheung

The Government of Canada will soon require food manufacturers to add a front-of-package (FOP) nutrition symbol on prepackaged foods that are high in sodium, sugars, and /or saturated fat.[1] The new FOP nutrition symbol requirement is part of food labelling changes intended to help consumers make informed choices about nutrients of concern. The requirement comes into effect on July 20, 2022, although the industry is given until January 1, 2026 to make the required changes. This delay allows the industry to review its processes, improve its recipes and fix its labels.

The FOP nutrition symbol is black and white and includes a magnifying glass to draw consumers’ attention (Examples of the front-of-package nutrition symbol can be found here). The text of the symbol indicates what the packaged food is high in:  sodium, sugars, saturated fat or any combination of them. The nutrition symbol also has specific size and location requirements. For example, the symbol is to be located in the upper half of most packaging shapes. Furthermore, if the label is wider than it is tall, it is to be located on the right half of the packaging. The text must be in both English and French, and they can be on the same symbol or on separate symbols.

Generally, prepackaged foods that meet or exceed 15% daily value (DV) per reference amount or serving size of saturated fat, sugars or sodium will be required to carry the symbol. For prepackaged foods with a small reference amount, set at ≤ 30g or mL, the threshold is 10% DV. For prepackaged foods with a reference amount of ≥ 200g (170 g for main dishes intended solely for children 1 to 4 years of age), the threshold is 30% DV.

There are three types of exemptions for the FOP nutrition symbol: health-related exemptions, technical exemptions, and practical exemptions.

Health-related exemptions: these are foods that have health protection benefits and/or are important sources of “shortfall nutrients” that are not readily available in other foods. Foods in this category include packaged fruits and vegetables without added sodium, sugars, or saturated fat; certain dairy products such as plain milk and cheese; foods with healthy fat such as nuts and fatty fish.

Technical exemptions: these are foods that do not require a Nutritional Facts table, such as raw, single-ingredient whole meats, poultry or fish; raw, single ingredient ground meats and poultry; foods in very small packages such as individually portioned crackers served with soup.

Practical exemptions: these are foods where the nutrition symbol would be redundant, such as packages of sugar, honey, table salt, and butter.

If you wish to learn how you can change the labelling of your product to comply with the new FOP labelling requirement and other requirements on the nutrition facts table and the list of ingredients, please contact one of our professionals.

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