Health Minister Petitpas Taylor rolls out new food package labels


Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor rolled out proposals Friday for new packaging labels for foods high in saturated fat, sugar or sodium — proposals that exempt some products, including milk.


The proposed new labels are meant to encourage consumers to avoid binging on foods linked to chronic health problems like obesity and high blood pressure.

Products are to be labelled according to the amount of sugar, sodium or saturated fat per serving. Any product that includes more than 15 per cent of the daily recommended intake of each ingredient will get a label.

The label is meant to make “choosing the healthier option the easier option,” Petitpas Taylor told a media conference Friday.

Despite being high in certain saturated fats, two per cent and whole milk will be exempt from the labels because of their proven nutritional benefits.

Salt, sugar, honey and maple syrup — products with naturally high levels of sugar or sodium — will be exempt to avoid redundancy. Raw fruits, vegetables and meat will also be exempt.

Food processors and manufacturers will be required to display the labels on the front of packages, near the top.

“Parents would be able to spot the most sugary products, even as they race down the aisle with their children,” Petitpas Taylor said.

The government also announced other food-related measures Friday:

  • It plans to increase the required amount of Vitamin D added to milk and margarine.
  • It will no longer require warning labels for the presence of partially hydrogenated oils, since their use was banned in September.
  • And it’s repealing requirements for extra warning labels for four high-intensity sweeteners: aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame-potassium and neotame.

The regulations will come into effect later this year, but manufacturers will have until 2022 to comply with them — either by adding the labels or by lowering the sugar, sodium or saturated fat content in the products.

Health Canada has not settled on how the labels will look on the packaging. The department showed off four proposed designs on Friday.

Some of those proposed designs include icons: a magnifying glass to encourage consumers to look closely at the product’s contents, or an exclamation point indicating a high sugar, sodium or saturated fat content. Other options merely warn of “high levels” of those ingredients, in red or black type.

The department will launch public consultations shortly and conduct consumer research later this year to settle on which label design to use.