Category: Food Labels

Regulatory Reform for Foods with Health Benefits

Are you confused about the many changes that the fast paced regulatory reform has brought your way? You’re not alone! The past few months has rocked the world of nutrient related health claims.  Although the change promises a quicker route to market for foods with health benefits, managing compliance might be somewhat more challenging. Agriculture Canada prepared an excellent business management tool to help product development and marketing professionals navigate through the food claim options. If you are interested in learning more about the decision making process required to determine whether to pursue a nutrient claim and/or health claim for your product, access the archived webinar:  Canadian Food Health Claim Roadmap – Part 1. (Available until March 10, 2013.)

Stevia sweetener approved for use in foods and beverages in Canada

steviol glycosides

On November 30th 2012 the long awaited notice by Health Canada confirmed the list of permitted sweeteners, enabling the use of steviol glycosides in a variety of food and beverage categories including breakfast cereals, bakery products, desserts, fruit and nut spreads and confectionery. Steviol glycosides are a purified extract from the leaves of stevia, a native herb of South America used for centuries to sweeten foods. Steviol glycosides such as stevioside and rebaudioside A are 200-300 times sweeter than sugar, and will play a role in new product development that meets the consumers’ desire for lower calorie foods and beverages with natural ingredients. The full list of permitted sweetener s may be found on Health Canada’s website at Notice of Modification to the List of Permitted Sweeteners.

Satiety – a Promising Health Claim

Health Canada recently collected stakeholder input on the criteria for the proposed satiety health claim. Satiety is an important claim globally with numerous new launches in international markets. Many of the new products were based on fibre and/or protein. Market researchers expect more new satiety products as studies into pea, potato, whey, milk and other proteins increases.
The satiety claim in Canada will be an important step toward achieving claims that support innovation and meet consumer needs. Communication about the product must be properly worded and not create the impression that foods carrying satiety claims would help individuals control food intake and manage body weight. Several suggested wordings for the claim appeared in the consultation document and may be of interest to your business. In my experience consumers prefer positive words such as “gives feelings of fullness longer” over negative/restrictive words such as “suppresses hunger”. It’s important to note that food products sold in Canada with the satiety claim must be substantiated using human studies.

Gluten-free claims update

Canada’s new Allergen and Gluten labelling regulations came into full force on August 4, 2012. The long-awaited guidance document to industry outlines the requirements for the “gluten-free claim”. For interested marketers, the Canadian Celiac Association (CCA) now provides a Gluten-Free Certification Program which includes the use of the CCA’s gluten-free logo.

Health Canada’s report on “gluten-free” claim criteria states that products that do not exceed 20 ppm, and are manufactured under “Good Manufacturing Practices” meet the intent of regulations for “gluten-free” claim. It’s up to the manufacturers to ensure that they meet the established criteria before using the “gluten-free” claim. Read the full report.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) provides compliance and enforcement of Gluten-Free Claims. As a service to manufacturers involved with marketing gluten-free products, the Canadian Celiac Association (CCA) developed a Gluten-Free Certification Program. It is a voluntary program with a fee structure and license agreement that involves an audit for good manufacturing practices and defines the terms of use for the gluten free mark. To see if the CCA’s service is a good fit for your business check out their Gluten-Free Certification Program Self Evaluation Checklist.

Implications to your business:

Gluten-free claims target an increasing number of consumers who are seeking to limit gluten in their diet. According to the Canadian Celiac Association, it’s estimated that 2,300,000 people require gluten-free products – 300,000 Canadians who have celiac disease and another 2 million who have non-celiac disease gluten sensitivity. It’s not surprising that the market for gluten-free products is expected to grow. Consider learning more about the health and nutrition needs of consumers to help your business. The gluten-free claim is regulated and may be used by manufacturers whose products meet the criteria. The Canadian Celiac Association’s voluntary program may also be of interest to marketers of gluten-free foods.

Health Claim: Lower Blood Cholesterol by Replacing Saturated Fats with Mono- and Polyunsaturated fats

Comparison of Dietary Fats

Health Canada posted a new blood cholesterol lowering health claim related to the replacement of saturated fat with mono- and polyunsaturated fat. High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. According to Statistics Canada 44 per cent of Canadians have high cholesterol.

Spot the difference between the types of fat
A good rule of thumb for recognizing saturated fat and unsaturated fat (mono- and polyunsaturates) is to consider their appearance at room temperature. Fat which consist mostly of saturated fat tends to be hard at room temperature such as shortening or butter. Fat containing mostly mono-and polyunsaturated fat tends to be liquid at room temperature, like vegetable oils.  The attached chart titled ‘Comparison of Dietary Fats’ is a great visual that shows the proportion of saturated, mono-and polyunsaturated fat in various naturally occurring fats and oils.
The replacement of saturated fat is the latest in a series of blood cholesterol lowering claims by regulators offering consumers advice on healthy alternatives. Oat and psyllium products and blood cholesterol lowering claims were released in November 2010 and December 2011 respectively.
Watch for innovative food products that leverage the cholesterol lowering health claims on package labels and in advertising.

Updated Nutrition Label Resource

Healthy eating helps reduce your risk of many chronic diseases like diabetes, heart diesease, stroke and some types of cancer. Health Canada just released an ‘It’s Your Health’ update on Nutrition Labels to help consumers read and understand information found  on food labels. Food labels are the most reliable source of informaiton on pre-packaged foods and drinks and give valuable guidance to help you make healthy choices. The It’s Your Health article on Nutrition Labels has been updated with new information and is now available at:

IOM Calls for Change in Front of Package Symbols

The proliferation of Front of Package (FOP) nutrition symbols is evident in Canada and the US. You may have seen check marks, stars and key icons just to name a few, and likely had to dig a bit deeper to understand what they mean. A report issued in October 2011 by the US based Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that it is time for a fundamental change, a shift in strategy for FOP symbols.  IOM recommends “a move away from complex or confusing FOP systems that do not give clear guidance about the healthfulness of a food or beverage and toward one that encourages healthier choices through simplicity, visual clarity, and the ability to convey  leaning without written information. The report recommends a simple FOP nutrition rating system that shows calories in household measures and points for the healthfulness of the product, enabling shoppers to instantly recognize healthier products by their number of points and calorie information.”  Stay tuned for more as this important area of on-pack nutrition communication evolves.

Health Canada’s Nutrition Facts education Campaign

Food labels are viewed as an important source of nutrition information by about 70% of Canadian consumers. A comprehensive review of existing and new consumer research pointed out some obstacles that consumers face when using the label.  In order to help Canadians make healthier food choices, Health Canada launched the Nutrition Facts Education Campaign with a focus on using the amount of food and the % Daily Value (% DV) on the Nutrition Facts table. The program was developed in partnership with Food and Consumer Product of Canada.

In 2011, look for a national media campaign with television and print advertising. Educational information will also appear on food packages and in store messaging. Visit Health Canada’s website for more information. Educators and health professionals are important players in helping Canadians use the nutrition information on food labels to make informed food choices. Contact us if you have questions about educational opportunities, consumer research or food labelling. 

New Research: Labels could do more to reveal nutritious foods

A new Health Canada survey found that consumers are confused by the nutrition facts table on the back of prepackaged foods. The research was conducted for Health Canada through a series of 8 focus groups to determine whether various elements of a future educational campaign were clear and appropriate. Serving sizes and the % DV were particularly challenging for consumers. We believe that nutrition professionals and food manufacturers have a great opportunity to help shoppers make healthy food choices and make labels easier to understand. Contact us for more information about how we can help leverage the valuable information found in the nutritional facts panel.

Click here for a full copy of the “Focus Testing of Creatives for the Nutrition Facts Education Iniative” report filed at Library and Archives Canada.