Food advertising requirements
Educational material versus advertising
The difference between advertising material that promotes a product and material that is solely for educational purposes is important to understand when determining the legal requirements associated with the material.
All representations that directly or indirectly promote the consumption or sale of a food are considered to be advertising and thereby subject to: the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations, the Safe Food for Canadians Act and Regulations, and other federal or provincial statutes and guidelines, including the Competition Act [subsections 52(1), 52.1 and 74.02], and the Trade-marks Act [Section 7]. The recipient of the representation is "anyone" as no exclusions are mentioned.
Print and broadcast material must be assessed on a case-by-case basis as to whether it is considered to be advertising subject to federal statutes, or whether it is uniquely for educational purposes.
In general, information or material produced or sponsored by the food industry may be considered "educational" rather than "advertising" when the following five criteria are satisfied:
- the material is obviously designed for the purpose of informing consumers in a factual manner rather than promoting the sale of a product. That is, the material is a statement or presentation of fact without commercialization. It gives relevant facts and points of view, not just those that favour the sponsor
- if the sponsor is identified, the content is still generic in nature and does not mention product brand names, other than in the sponsorship statement, which is not be given undue prominence
- if the material focuses on a class of foods (such as poultry), or a food group (such as vegetables and fruit), the class/group of foods is presented in the context of the recommended pattern of eating in Canada's Food Guide (see General health claims)
- educational material as described above will usually cease to be considered educational when linked to a product, (e.g., by being displayed with a specific product or shown in close proximity to it at point-of-sale). However, depending upon the circumstances, it may be acceptable for educational material to be displayed away from a food that is the generic subject of the educational material (e.g., in another area of a store or restaurant). (Note: Advertising material may be displayed with or in close proximity to a food at point-of-sale provided it is not misleading, does not refer to the prevention of disease, and meets the requirements of the FDA, FDR, SFCA and SFCR.)
- when educational material is produced solely by an organization that does not sell food (e.g., a health-related organization, producer group, marketing board, etc.), the retailer, restaurateur, etc. who has placed or displayed the material in close proximity to the food referenced may be determined to be responsible for its use as an advertisement.
This policy applies to printed and broadcast materials produced, sponsored or distributed by persons advertising or selling food, including manufacturers, retailers, restaurateurs, producer organizations and advertisers, with or without, the collaboration of health associations.
Example of an educational brochure
If a carrot grower wants to publish a brochure to inform consumers about the role of the diet in disease prevention, the brochure may focus on a food group or class of foods (vegetables and fruits), but must be presented in the context of Canada's Food Guide. Additionally, the grower may identify its corporate brand (Brand X) of carrots on the cover of the brochure without giving it undue prominence, but, the manufacturer cannot mention Brand X carrots, or its other products or brands, within the brochure. Lastly, the brochure may not be displayed at point-of-sale in close proximity to either Brand X carrots or to any other brand of carrots.
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