On February 2, 2021, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada notified industry of changes to the implementation plan for certain new food labelling requirements, which apply as of December 15, 2021. In particular, although the new labelling requirements, including those relating to Nutrition Facts tables, will be in force as of that date, the CFIA has announced that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will focus its efforts on education and compliance promotion for the first year thereafter, i.e. until December 14, 2022. This will be followed by a one-year period of compliance verification and enforcement discretion, ending on December 14, 2023.
A Recap of the New Food Labelling Changes
As part of Health Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy, amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations related to nutrition labelling, ingredient listing and food colour requirements were published in the Canada Gazette Part II on December 14, 2016. Key changes, including a revised format for the Nutrition Facts table and ingredient listing, are meant to assist Canadians in making more informed food choices. A five-year transition period to meet the new labelling requirements was established to provide industry with sufficient time to make required label changes and exhaust existing supplies of printed labels. This transition period will expire on December 14, 2021.
Compliance and Enforcement Moving Forward
The CFIA announced that, for the first year following the end of the transition period, it will focus its efforts on education and compliance promotion ending on December 14, 2022. During this one-year period, prepackaged foods manufactured or imported before December 14, 2022 may be sold and may remain on store shelves even if their labels reflect the former labelling requirements.
Beginning December 15, 2022, CFIA inspection activities will verify compliance with the new labelling requirements. CFIA will apply enforcement discretion when instances of non-compliance are found where manufacturers or importers have a detailed plan that shows: (i) the steps being taken to meet the new requirements at the earliest possible time, and no later than December 14, 2023; and (ii) any actions taken to prevent or minimize risk to human health.
This enforcement approach has been implemented in response to the food industry, which requested more time to meet the new labelling requirements in light of the challenges posed by COVID-19.
The food industry should note that between December 15, 2021 and December 14, 2023, CFIA may still take enforcement action in respect of inaccurate, false, or misleading labelling information.
Beginning December 15, 2023, food labels must be fully compliant with the new requirements.
Future Food Label Changes
Health Canada and the CFIA, with the support of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, have committed to establishing a predictable cycle to align future food label changes in order to reduce the economic burden associated with multiple, sequential label changes. As such, a joint policy for coordinating future changes to food labelling requirements has been proposed and is open for stakeholder consultation. The policy proposes to implement: (i) fixed compliance dates every two years, and (ii) an interdepartmental labelling coordination process. This consultation opened on February 2nd and will end on April 3rd, 2021. The Fasken Food law team has extensive experience in this area and is available to consult with stakeholders interested in responding to the submission. Any questions related to the new food labelling changes can be directed to the Fasken co-authors.
 Health Canada and the CFIA welcome feedback from all interested Canadians, including: industry associations (e.g. manufacturers and processors), agri-food companies, provincial and territorial partners, health researchers and advocates, and consumer groups.