Highlighting Health Canada’s Food Labelling Changes

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Health Canada has made a number of improvements to food labels to help make them easier to understand so Canadians can make more informed healthy food choices.  Read on to learn more about these improvements!

Changes to the nutrition facts table and list of ingredients

In December 2016 Health Canada announced a number of improvements to the nutrition facts table and list of ingredients on food labels. Manufactures had a transition period to make the required changes – which many have already completed – and compliance will be verified no later than December 2023.

The below figure illustrates changes made to the nutrition facts table

Source: Changes to the nutrition facts table, Health Canada

New nutrition facts table highlights include:

  • Serving Size changed to reflect the amount of food typically eaten in one sitting and it will be more consistent across similar foods, making it easier to compare similar foods.  
  • List of minerals of public health concern updated to:
    • remove vitamin A and vitamin C since most Canadians are getting enough of these nutrients through their diet
    • add potassium since it’s important for maintaining healthy blood pressure and most Canadians are falling short of this nutrient
  • Daily Values updated to reflect the latest science.
  • A new % Daily Value for total sugars has been added which allows you to compare the sugars content of different foods.
  • A new footnote to help interpret the % Daily Value has also been added.  Remember, 5% or more is a little; and 15% or more is a lot.  This will help you understand how much of a nutrient the food contains.
  • Keep in mind, while the % Daily Value for total sugars is based on 100 grams; this is not a recommended intake level, but rather an amount of total sugars that is in line with a healthy eating pattern, where most sugars come from fruit, vegetables and plain milk.

Did You Know?

  • The nutrition facts table only lists total sugars, which includes both naturally occurring sugars present in fruits, vegetables and dairy products, as well as sugars added during processing or preparation.
  • Read on to learn how to spot sugars added to foods and beverages using the new list of ingredients.

New list of ingredients

  • Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight and the changes will now have sugars-based ingredients grouped together on the ingredient list in brackets, by weight and in descending order after the name ‘sugars’.
  • This will allow you to spot sugars that have been added to the food and also see the amount of sugars added to the food compared to other ingredients. Keep in mind, naturally occurring sugars from fruits, vegetables and dairy sources are not listed on the ingredient list – only added sugars are listed.   
Source: Sugars: Using the food labels, Health Canada
  • The above example shows you there’s more fancy molasses by weight than brown sugar or sugar. As well, it shows you there’s more sugars in the food by weight than any other ingredient.

New front-of-package nutrition labelling

In my recent blog, I discussed that on June 30, 2022 Health Canada unveiled their new front-of-package nutrition symbol that will appear on prepackaged foods high in one or more of three nutrients deemed of public health concern – that being sodium, sugars and saturated fats. 

The new nutrition symbol will help make it easier for Canadians to make healthier, quick and informed choices about foods in relation to their sodium, sugar and saturated fat content and will complement the recent improvements to the nutrition facts table and list of ingredients as discussed above.

Manufacturers will have until January 1, 2026 to incorporate this mandatory front-of-package nutrition symbol for prepackaged foods that meet or exceed certain levels for sodium, sugars or saturated fat, though you may start seeing it earlier.  Until then, continue using the nutrition facts table and list of ingredients to help make more informed healthy food choices.

For more information on food labelling changes see:

Food labelling changes, Health Canada

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