13 Introduction to Understanding Labelling Rules and Regulations

Learning Objectives

  • Describe product labelling procedures and regulations
  • Describe nutritional information required on labels and packages
  • Describe types of packaging, uses, and regulations

Food labels are often not well understood by consumers. The Canadian government has, however, made efforts to create labels that provide necessary information for consumers. It is important for consumers to become knowledgeable about how to read and interpret food labels in order to make informed choices about healthy and safe products.

Health Canada is responsible for constructing policies to meet the standards set by the Food and Drug Act (FDA). Other governing bodies, such as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), have responsibilities for administering food-labelling policies as well as managing the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act. Beyond this, food producers such as bakers play an important role in the food industry by producing great tasting products that are high in nutritional value and meet customers’ needs. Food producers, including bakers, who produce food sold locally, nationally, or internationally must meet governmental labelling requirements.

Mandatory food labelling applies to almost all food products, and most food products require a list of ingredients. Labelling of foods and ingredients is mandatory for foods that have undergone irradiation if the total irradiated ingredients constitute more than 10% of the final food product. Some of the foods that may be irradiated and sold in Canada are potatoes and onions to prevent sprouting during storage; wheat, flour, and whole wheat flour to control insect infestation; whole or ground spices; and dehydrated seasoning preparation to reduce microbial load. Additional strict standards apply and guidelines must be adhered to for product labels where companies want to make a certain health and nutrition claim. All food labels must be truthful and not mislead consumers. Recent “innovative marketing” by companies may have fallen under the “misleading and being untruthful phenomenon” (CBC, 2015). Watch the first 16 minutes of this video from CBC Marketplace, titled Orange Juice: Juicy Secrets.

Most prepackaged food labels must include the nutrition facts table (NFT), a list of ingredients, allergen statements, and expiration and best before dates. On most packaged food products, the NFT is mandatory, with the exception of some food items, alcoholic beverages, and products that have few nutrients, such as coffee and spices (see Foods Usually Exempt from Carrying a Nutrition Facts Table).

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