How is food regulated in Canada?
Food in Canada must comply with a range of regulations to ensure our health and safety. Legislation for food in Canada includes the Food and Drugs Act, Safe Food for Canadians Act, Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, and more depending on the nature of the food. The primary legislation for food in Canada is the Food and Drugs Act (FDA).
The FDA outlines laws on food labelling, advertising and claims; food standards and compositional requirements; fortification; foods for special dietary uses; food additives; chemical and microbial hazards; veterinary drug residues; packaging material; and pesticides.
There are three federal government departments that play complementary roles in the development, enforcement and interpretation of policies and guidance stemming from the FDA and its Food and Drug Regulations (FDR).
- Health Canada is responsible for setting standards for the nutritional quality and safety of all foods sold in Canada. The Food Directorate, within the Health Products and Food Branch, manages the health risks and benefits of food products by evaluating scientific evidence to develop and implement requirements under the FDA and its associated policies and standards. They exercise this mandate under the authority of the FDA, and its regulatory mandate is pursued under the FDR.
- The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for enforcing health and safety standards outlined in the FDA and its associated regulations. The CFIA’s main concern is to mitigate risks to food safety, and the Agency is also responsible for administrating non-health and safety regulations regarding packaging, labelling and advertising.
- Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) helps to get innovative food products into the marketplace by providing information and support to help the industry understand regulatory requirements associated with the FDA.
The FDA ensures that Canadians can make informed food decisions based on truthful and not misleading information. For this reason, the FDA insists on honest food labelling, and requires industry to comply with regulations on food labelling, advertising and claims. Nutrition and health claims must be scientifically validated, and constructed to provide the consumer with meaningful information.
In addition to core labelling requirements for foods, such as the Nutrition Facts table, list of ingredients and allergens, other voluntary claims can be made on a food label. Nutrient content claims can be made to describe the amount of a specific nutrient in a food. An example of a nutrient content claim would be “a good source of calcium.”