Front-of-Package Warning Labels on Prepackaged Foods in Canada

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH

Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy name: Front-of-Package Nutrition Labeling

Overview: Health Canada has introduced new front-of-package nutrition labeling requirements for prepackaged foods that are high in saturated fat, sugar, and/or sodium. 

Location: Canada

Population: 38.4 million

Food policy category: Nutrition, preventive health

Program goals: To help consumers make healthier choices to reduce diet-related chronic diseases. 

How it works: A front-of-package warning label is required on:

  1. Prepackaged foods that meet or exceed 15 percent of the maximum daily value (DV) for saturated fats, sugars, or sodium.
  2. Prepackaged foods with a small serving size (less than 30 grams or milliliters) that meet or exceed 10 percent of DV for saturated fats, sugars, or sodium. 
  3. Prepackaged meals with a serving size of more than 200 grams that meet or exceed 30 percent of DV for saturated fats, sugars, or sodium. 

Foods that are exempt from the labeling requirement include:

  • Foods with a known health benefit, such as:
    • Fruits and vegetables without added sugar or salt
    • Dairy products without added saturated fats or sugars
    • Eggs
    • Foods high in healthy fats such as vegetable oils, nuts, and fatty fish.
  • Foods that do not require a nutrition label, such as:
    • Raw meats (including ground meat, which does require a nutrition label)
    • Foods sold at farmers’ markets
    • Foods packaged in very small quantities that are not sold directly to consumers (for example, single-serve coffee creamer cups or bite-sized candy bars).
  • Foods for which a label would be redundant, such as butter, oils, sugar, honey, and salt. 

The black-and-white label will include a magnifying glass icon and state the nutrient(s) that is/are high in the product, in both English and French. 

Progress to date: The front-of-package labels are part of Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy, released in October 2016, and are designed to help Canadians make the healthy choice the easy choice. Food labeling regulations regarding nutrition facts and ingredient lists were updated at the end of 2016, and the food industry was given a five-year transition period, ending on December 14, 2021, to update nutrition labels. Front-of-package labeling regulations were influenced by stakeholder input provided during multiple consultations conducted from 2016 through 2018. The new regulations were announced on June 30, 2022. 

Why it is important: A diet high in saturated fat, sugar, and/or sodium is associated with increased risks of chronic health conditions including obesity, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Furthermore, nutrition is also connected to mental health outcomes, including depression and dementia. 

The latest data from the Canadian Chronic Disease Indicators (CCDI) show that 10 percent of children and almost 25 percent of adults are obese, 13 percent of Canadians have been diagnosed with a mood or anxiety disorder, and 44 percent have been diagnosed with one of the ten most common chronic diseases (heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, arthritis, dementia, mood disorders, and anxiety disorders). 

The front-of-package labeling system will help consumers quickly and easily identify foods that could be detrimental to their health. 

Program/Policy initiated: The regulations go into effect on July 20, 2022, but the food industry has until January 1, 2026, to start displaying the new labels.

Point of contact: 
Health Canada
Phone: 613-957-2991

Similar practices: Front-of-package warning labels were first introduced in Chile in 2016, and are either required or under development now in Peru, Uruguay, Israel, Mexico, Columbia, Brazil, and Argentina

Evaluation: Evaluation of Canada’s policy has not yet been conducted. However, evidence from other countries has shown that similar front-of-package warning labels are effective in reducing purchases of less healthy products. 

Learn more:


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