The regulations stipulate the requirements for three different types of nutrition information on food labels.
Nutrition labelling became mandatory for all prepackaged foods on December 12, 2007.
The regulations were developed through extensive consultation with consumers, health interest groups and the food industry. An external Advisory Committee was appointed to help in the development of the nutrition labelling policy. We looked at the U.S. model as well, particularly at their prize-winning format.
The Nutrition Facts table appears on almost all prepackaged foods. Since it is difficult to provide labelling for prepackaged foods under certain conditions, exemptions are allowed for foods such as:
Exempted foods may still have Nutrition Facts on the label. A food will no longer be exempt if a nutrition claim is made, if vitamins or minerals have been added, or if sweeteners, such as aspartame, have been added.
Full exemption (these foods will never lose their exempt status)
is given to the following foods due to packaging constraints:
Foods that are not prepackaged will not have a Nutrition Facts table. This includes foods that are served or sold in restaurants, cafeterias and take-outs; meats and cheeses sold at a deli counter; and many fresh fruit and vegetables.
However, consumers should be encouraged to look for and request nutrition information. For example, information binders on the nutritional value of vegetables and fruit may be found near produce sections in grocery stores, and reference booklets on the nutrient content of products are sometimes available, on request, at restaurants.
The nutrients chosen are those that consumers, health professionals and scientists consider important to the health of Canadians.
Trans fat is derived from a chemical process known as "partial hydrogenation", which is the process of converting liquid oils to a semi-solid form.
Trans fat, like saturated fat, has been shown to raise blood LDL-cholesterol levels. LDL-cholesterol is a risk factor for coronary heart disease.
Unlike saturated fat, trans fat also reduces blood HDL-cholesterol (a good fat in the blood). Reduced HDL-cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease.
Most Canadians should reduce their intake of saturated and trans fats because they increase risk factors for heart disease.
Saturated fat and trans fat have one combined % Daily Value in the Nutrition Facts table because both types of fat have negative effects on blood cholesterol levels.
The amount of fat listed in the Nutrition Facts table includes saturated fat, trans fat, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat that are present in the food.
For example, in the Nutrition Facts table seen below, the sum of saturated and trans fats is 1 g, whereas the total fat content is 8 g. This product therefore has 7 g of fat coming from monounsaturated and/or polyunsaturated fats.
Sodium (Na) is one of the chemical elements found in table salt. The chemical name for table salt is sodium chloride (NaCl). Salt is a common ingredient in processed and prepared foods, such as canned soups and processed meats. Sodium, without chloride, may also be added to foods through additives such as disodium phosphate, sodium nitrate, or sodium gluconate. Some foods, such as milk, contain sodium naturally. Sodium can contribute to increasing the risk for high blood pressure.
Yes, in addition to the mandatory nutrients, the Nutrition Facts table may contain information on calories from fat, calories from saturated and trans fats, polyunsaturated fat, omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat, potassium, soluble and insoluble fibre, sugar alcohol, starch and the following vitamins and minerals: vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, biotin, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, iodide, magnesium, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, and chloride.
Nutrients not in this list and other food constituents may be declared outside the Nutrition Facts table.
The serving size listed in the Nutrition Facts table is there as a reference. It identifies a specific amount of food for the purpose of declaring the calorie and nutrient content within the stated quantity. It can be compared to the amount eaten or the amount listed on other similar products. The serving size listed in Nutrition Facts is an amount that is often consumed at one sitting.
Consumers should compare the amount they eat to the amount of food listed in the Nutrition Facts table.
Canada's Food Guide recommends a specific number of Food Guide Servings per day for various age and gender groups. Consumers should also follow the recommendations in Canada's Food Guide to choose the amount and type of food needed for their age and gender.
A person consumes 375 mL of juice.
The Nutrition Facts information is for a 250 mL serving of juice.
A Food Guide Serving of juice is 125 mL, therefore this person consumes three Food Guide Servings of Vegetables and Fruit.
The % Daily Value is a simple benchmark for evaluating the nutrient content of foods quickly and easily. The % Daily Value can be used to determine whether there is a lot or a little of a nutrient in a serving of the food.
The Daily Values are based on recommendations for a healthy diet. It is recommended that a healthy diet should provide about 20-35% of calories from fat. The Daily Value used in nutrition labelling is based on a diet including 30% of calories from fat, which translates to 65 g for a 2000 calorie reference diet.
Therefore, a product with 18 g of fat would have a % Daily Value of 28%
(18 g ÷ 65 g) x 100 = 28%.
The combined % Daily Value for saturated and trans fats is based on a Daily Value of 20 g.
Therefore, a product with 7.5 g of saturated and trans fats would have a
% Daily Value of 38%:
(7.5 g ÷ 20 g) x 100 = 38%
It is recommended, however, that individuals maintain their saturated and trans fats intakes as low as possible, while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet.
What exactly is "a lot" or "a little" varies for individuals and for nutrients. Even without being told what is high (a lot) or what is low (a little) for each nutrient, Canadians can use % DV to quickly assess if the nutrients they are trying to increase have higher percentages, and those that they are trying to decrease have lower percentages.
More specific criteria are available for nutrition claims, such as "low" in a nutrient or "high" in a nutrient. These criteria vary depending on the nutrient. For example:
It is easier for consumers to interpret the vitamin and mineral quantities within a food as a percentage of a Daily Value, rather than needing to understand various units like RE or µg.
Small numbers may be viewed as insignificant and large numbers as significant. For example, 110 mg of sodium (a large number) is only 5% of the Daily Value while 2 mg of iron (a small number) is 15% of the Daily Value.
The % Daily Values are based on dietary guidance for healthy populations. In the case of sugars there is no recognized guideline on the amount that should be consumed by healthy populations. For protein, intakes are generally adequate and are not a health concern for Canadians who have access to a mixed diet. In the case of cholesterol, the % Daily Value is optional because while it is a risk factor for heart disease, a reduction in saturated fat, which is found in meat and dairy products, will be accompanied by a reduction in cholesterol intake.
All consumers can use the % Daily Value as a general guide, whether they eat more or less than 2000 Calories each day, or even know how many Calories they consume.
Only the Daily Values for carbohydrates, total fat, and saturated and trans fats are based on a 2000-Calorie diet. The recommendations for the other nutrients are not related to caloric intake, and therefore the Daily Values for these nutrients apply to most people, regardless of their caloric intake.
The actual amounts (g/mg) may be used more by those with specific dietary needs.
Health claims are a type of nutrition claim. Nutrition labelling regulations permit the following diet/health relationships:
There are nutrition claims on some products but not on others because nutrition claims are optional. Manufacturers can choose whether or not to put a nutrition claim on their product if it meets the criteria set in the regulations.
Nutrition claims must meet specific government regulations. Manufacturers can only use a specific nutrition claim if their product meets the criteria in the regulations. The approved nutrition claims may highlight a nutritional feature of a food or a relationship between diet and disease.
New requirements for existing nutrition claims as well as new claims are based on current science and are consistent with dietary recommendations and public health needs so that they are credible and useful for consumers and health professionals.
The regulations are enforced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. They respond to enquiries related to compliance and enforcement activities.
For educators, nutrition labelling provides the opportunity to highlight and to revitalize healthy eating programs and messages.
Linking the label information to Canada's Food Guide messages can help focus attention on healthy eating, as a whole. The nutrition information on food labels helps consumers compare products more easily, determine the nutritional value of foods and better manage special diets. Nutrition labelling is a practical tool that helps Canadians make informed food choices.