Consultations Open as Health Canada Continues Roll-Out of Healthy Eating Initiatives

Partially hydrogenated oils, sugars, sodium and saturated fats are caught in the cross-hairs as Health Canada moves forward on its Healthy Eating Strategy. Starting this week, Canadians are invited to comment on proposals to introduce mandatory front-of-package (FOP) labelling and to ban partially hydrogenated oils in foods. Consultations for comments are open until January 13, 2017.

What You Need To Know

  • FOP labelling would require food products high in sugars, sodium and saturated fats to display symbols indicating their nutrient content on the front label of food packaging. The proposal also extends to certain label claims and sweetener information. Implementation of FOP labelling would align with updates to the ingredients list and nutrition facts table. A key point to watch for many stakeholders is how Health Canada will determine the thresholds used to classify the offending nutrients as "high" or "low."
  • Having declared partially hydrogenated oils to be a public health concern, Health Canada is proposing a ban on their use in foods sold in Canada to decrease trans fats in the food supply to the lowest level possible. A twelve-month implementation is proposed to allow the food industry to make any necessary changes and to deplete existing stock.
  • In its new approach to communication with stakeholders, Health Canada, in addition to publicly reporting a summary of comments received, will also share with the public the date and subject of meetings that are requested by stakeholders outside of a formal consultation process. This approach also applies to stakeholder correspondence relating to healthy eating initiatives sent to Health Canada to inform the development of policies, guidance and regulations. 

Health Canada's rationale for FOP labelling is that giving consumers clear, visible and easy-to-understand information about sugars, sodium and saturated fats better equips them to make healthy, informed choices about the packaged food they buy. Similarly, the ban on partially hydrogenated oils is intended to reduce the consumption of unhealthy ingredients by targeting food products such as margarines, commercially baked goods and certain restaurant foods. The buying trends of health-conscious and nutritionally savvy consumers are expected to compel the food industry to improve the nutritional quality and profile of their food products accordingly.

To discuss these issues, please contact the author(s).

This publication is a general discussion of certain legal and related developments and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you require legal advice, we would be pleased to discuss the issues in this publication with you, in the context of your particular circumstances.

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