Grades for food
Grades establish product quality requirements depending on the food commodity, which may include parameters such as flavour, aroma, texture, colour, moisture, size, maturity, firmness, shape, cleanliness, density, clarity, fat content, condition of the food, as well as different types of defects. Grade names identify the degrees of quality in a given food commodity. They are used as a reference point or common language to:
- establish expectations for consistent product quality;
- support industry in marketing their product;
- bring to consumers the quality of product they want;
- facilitate trade between countries and provinces;
- establish prices and/or contracts between buyer and seller;
- protect against fraud and adulteration.
Graded food commodities
Grades and grade names (definition) for foods are regulated under the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) and various provincial acts.
Grades and grade names established for certain food commodities are set out in the Canadian Grade Compendium and the Beef, Bison, and Veal Carcass Grade Requirements document.
The Canadian Grade Compendium (referred to as the Compendium) is incorporated by reference into the SFCR and is prepared by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The Compendium is comprised of the following nine (9) volumes:
- Volume 1, Ovine carcasses and poultry carcasses
- Volume 2, Fresh fruit or vegetables
- Volume 3, Processed fruit or vegetable products
- Volume 4, Dairy products
- Volume 5, Eggs
- Volume 6, Honey
- Volume 7, Maple syrup
- Volume 8, Fish
- Volume 9, Grade name and grade designation for imported food
The Beef, Bison and Veal Carcass Grade Requirements - PDF (260 kb) (referred to as the Grades Document) is also incorporated by reference into the SFCR but is prepared by a third party, the Canadian Beef Grading Agency.
For additional information, consult the following Industry Labelling Tool pages which outline commodity-specific requirements:
- shell eggs
- fish and seafood
- fresh fruit and vegetables
- meat and poultry
- processed fruit or vegetable products
Mandatory and voluntary grades
Depending on the food commodity, grades are either mandatory or may be used on a voluntary basis. In either case, whenever a grade name is used, the food commodity must meet the grade requirements [306, 307, SFCR].
A licence holder (definition) who wants to apply or use a grade name must be authorized to do so by the SFCR [308, SFCR].
The following are some of the conditions that need to be met in order for a grade name to be applied to a food commodity:
- the food meets health and safety requirements [308(1)(a), SFCR]
- the food meets the grade requirements, including colour class requirements, if any, as set out in the Canadian Grade Compendium or the Beef, Bison and Veal Carcass Grade Requirements – PDF (260 kb) [308(1)(b), SFCR]
- the food meets applicable standards of identity and composition requirements, as set out in the Canadian Standards of Identity document, if any [308(1)(c), SFCR]
- the food is packaged and labelled in accordance with the regulatory requirements [308(1)(f), SFCR], and
- the food is generally graded by a licence holder or by a grader [308(1)(d) and (e), SFCR]
It is not permitted to use a Canadian grade on a product for which the regulations do not prescribe a grade standard. As a general rule, a Canada grade name cannot be applied in a foreign facility, nor can a foreign grade name be applied in Canada. It is also not permitted to apply or use anything that resembles a grade name, or that is likely to be mistaken for one.
Manner of declaring
For consumer prepackaged food, the grade name must be shown on the principal display panel or in the manner set out in the Compendium [312(a), SFCR].
The type size must adhere to any applicable commodity-specific type size provisions in Division 4 of Part 12 of the SFCR. In cases where there is no specific provision for type size, the grade name must be declared in the minimum height set out in column 2 of Schedule 6, in accordance with the appropriate principal display surface set out in column 1 of Schedule 6 [312(b), SFCR].
A grade name that is applied to a beef carcass, bison carcass, ovine carcass, veal carcass, poultry carcass that is dressed or partially dressed, dairy product or egg must be shown as illustrated in the Compendium or the Grades Document- PDF (260 kb) [313, SFCR].
For additional guidance, refer to the commodity-specific requirements of CFIA's Industry Labelling Tool (ILT).
Claims regarding grades
Voluntary claims regarding product quality and grades are applicable to all graded foods. Please refer to Composition and quality for details.
- Grade name
Under the SFCA, grade name means a prescribed name, mark or designation of a food commodity [2, SFCA].
The SFCR further specify that, for the purposes of this definition, the grade names that are set out in the Compendium and in the Grades Document are prescribed in respect of foods [305, SFCR].
- Licence holder
- A person who has been issued a licence under paragraph 20(1)(a) or (b) of the Safe Food for Canadians Act.
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