Current Food Policy and Regulatory Issues

Learn about the current state of food policy and regulatory issues, particularly with regard to innovative foods with health benefits, and find links to up-to-date guidance, regulations and resources.

Certifications and Quality Standards
Canadian labelling policy allows industry to provide information to consumers about certain characteristics of foods and how foods have been produced or processed, as long as it is truthful, not misleading, and in compliance with any regulatory and certification requirements.

Food Additives
The food industry requires the use of food additives to preserve flavour, enhance appearance, or maintain quality and shelf-life of food. Food additives are regulated in Canada under the Food and Drug Regulations and associated Marketing Authorizations. If a food additive is not listed for a particular use, the manufacturer is required to file a food additive submission with Health Canada prior to its use in foods.

Food Allergen Labelling
Canada's food labelling regulations require that food allergens be labelled on pre-packaged foods. Health Canada has published amendments to the regulations that strengthen the labelling requirements for priority food allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites.

Food and Natural Health Product Classification
Consumed products are classified as either foods or drugs; drugs include the subcategory of natural health products (NHPs). Each category has its own set of regulations. Although the broad definition for a NHP results in an overlap between the two regulatory frameworks, criteria such as the format help determine the right regulatory path for a particular product. Health Canada is transitioning most food-like NHP products to the food regulatory framework.

Functional Foods
Regulating the growing functional food industry is important to ensure food safety and encourage innovation. These products often pose a challenge to the regulatory framework, as the format and other factors determine whether they are regulated as a natural health product or a food.

Health Claims for Food
Access to more health claim options for food labels gives the food industry an incentive to invest in research, and stimulates innovation to develop or reformulate products to provide added health benefits that respond to consumer interest. The decision of which type of claim to use impacts market entry and the ability to pursue opportunities for niche product development.

International Food Regulatory Environment
Any time a regulation in Canada is different or stricter than that in other countries, the potential exists for Canadian manufacturers to be disadvantaged. There are continuing efforts to examine and improve the standards of equivalency between Canada and its major trading partners to eliminate trade barriers related to technical regulations and standards such as labelling, packaging and quality requirements.

Novel Foods
Novel foods are foods or ingredients that are new, undergo substantially new processes, or are genetically engineered. This category is of interest to the food industry as it strives to meet consumer demand for innovative products with health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Prior to marketing or advertising a novel food, industry must notify Health Canada so that a safety assessment can be conducted.

Nutrition Labelling
Packaged food and beverages sold in Canada must have a "Nutrition Facts" table designed to provide nutrient information in an easy-to-find, standardized format.

Regulatory Modernization
Canada's regulatory systems for food are currently undergoing modernization to ensure they can keep pace with scientific advancements and the global business environment while maintaining health and safety. The agri-food sector has long recognized that the regulatory environment can support competitiveness, foster innovation and attract investment.

Sodium
The Canadian food industry is reducing the sodium content of commercially prepared foods by reformulating to meet voluntary guiding benchmark levels developed by Health Canada in consultation with stakeholders. The guidelines are part of a national strategy for sodium reduction recommended by the Sodium Working Group. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada was an active participant on the working group and continues to provide support and assistance to Health Canada for activities related to policy development.

Trans Fats
The Canadian food industry continues to reformulate products and develop new products that contain little or no trans fat. These efforts are in response to increased understanding of the link between trans fat and cardiovascular disease, mandatory trans fat labelling, and the introduction of voluntary target limits.

Vitamin and Mineral Addition
The current regulatory framework for the addition of vitamins and mineral nutrients to food is prescriptive. Health Canada is considering modifications that would enable industry to develop innovative products and provide consumers with a greater choice of foods with added vitamins and minerals.