Labelling requirements for fats and oils
Voluntary claims and statements
"Extra Virgin" Designation
Currently, there are no definitions for "extra virgin" applicable to any vegetable oil except for olive oil. Quality specifications for "extra virgin" olive oil exist in the trade standards for olive oil issued by the International Olive Oil Council and by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These standards require, among other things, that the extra virgin olive oil must be cold pressed, does not contain any refined olive oil, and possesses superior quality based on chemical composition and sensory characteristics.
The Codex Standard for Edible Fats and Oils – PDF (132 kb) does not have a definition for "extra virgin" oils; it only has standards for "virgin" and "cold pressed" oils. Therefore, vegetable oils other than olive oil may use the term "virgin" or "cold pressed" if they meet the criteria for these quality designations.
Because there are no internationally recognized standards that define "extra virgin" for other vegetable oils, the use of the term "extra virgin" is only acceptable for olive oil.
Oil Content Declarations on Margarine
Percent oil declarations on the Principal Display Panel (PDP) are not mandatory under the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and Regulations (FDR). However, in Quebec, a declaration of the percentage of each type of oil or fat of the total fat in margarine is mandatory on the container or package of margarine under the Quebec Food Product Regulations.
The CFIA has no objection to oil content declarations for margarine on the PDP as long as the basis for determining the percentages is clear to consumers. Percent declarations can be based on either:
- the total fat content in margarine, to meet Quebec requirements
- e.g., "Total fat made from 85% corn oil, 10% cotton seed oil and 5% soybean oil" or "Made from 85% corn oil, 10% cotton seed oil and 5% soybean oil";
Note: When oil content declarations are based on the total fat content in margarine, it is also acceptable to add separate declarations in the list of ingredients for each type of oil by total weight of the product. This will provide valuable information on relative proportions of some ingredients.
- the percentage of oil by weight of the total product
- e.g., "Contains 65% corn oil, 5% cotton seed oil and 2% soybean oil".
When oil content declarations are made, all the oils used in making the margarine should be named using proper common names. For example, if margarine is made from a mixture of corn oil, cotton seed oil and soybean oil, it would be considered misleading to refer only to the corn oil content. On the other hand, the mixture of oils could be correctly referred to as "vegetable oils".
Use of the Term Hydrogenated in Claims
It would be considered misleading for a product to claim that it is, for example, "popped in 100% corn oil", if it is actually popped in hydrogenated corn oil. The claim must appropriately state the oil used and should read, in this instance, "popped in hydrogenated 100% corn oil".
Heart symbols are often found on the labels of fat and oil products. Refer to Heart Symbols and Heart Health Claims for more information.
Unsaturated Fat and Blood Cholesterol Lowering Claims
The list of vegetables oils containing more than 80% of fat as unsaturated fat lists the oils that can be used to make the approved "Unsaturated Fat and Blood Cholesterol Lowering" claims found on Health Canada's website. Please note this list is not all inclusive and may be updated.
Vegetable oils containing more than 80% of fat as unsaturated fat based on the online Canadian Nutrient File version 2010 (accessed January 16, 2012) are:
- Apricot kernel
- Flaxseed (linseed)
- Safflower, linoleic (70% and over)
- Safflower, oleic (70% and over)
- Sunflower, linoleic (less than 60%)
- Sunflower, linoleic (60% and over)
- Sunflower, oleic (70% and over)
Food products containing one or more of the above-mentioned oils as the only source of fat for the product would qualify as containing more than 80% of fat as unsaturated fat.
Note: Although olive oil is expected to contain more than 80% of fat as unsaturated fat in most cases, it has not been included in this list because, based on Codex Standard for Named Vegetable Oils – PDF (302 kb), some olive oil might contain saturated fat in excess of 20%. If a company uses the claim on a product they must be able to provide sufficient evidence upon request to demonstrate that the olive oil in use always meets the 80% minimum of fat as unsaturated fat.
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