Health claims on food labels
Foods or natural health products (NHP)
In order to understand how health claims are regulated in Canada, one must first examine the definitions for a food and natural health products.
The term "food" (definition) is defined in the Food and Drugs Act (FDA). Natural health products (definition), which are a subset of drugs, are defined and regulated under the Natural Health Products Regulations (NHPR). These definitions are central to determining the correct classification of a product (i.e. food or NHP) and consequently whether the food or NHP regulatory framework applies.
This web page applies to health claims made on foods. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for compliance and enforcement of requirements related to food, whereas Health Canada carries out this role for NHPs.
It is also Health Canada's responsibility to determine product classification. Health Canada takes the following four factors into consideration to classify a product:
- Product composition
- Product representation
- Product format
- Perception of history and use
For more information on the above criteria or on NHPs, please consult Health Canada's webpage on Authorized food products.
Natural product number
NHPs that have been authorized for sale by Health Canada bear a Natural Product Number (NPN) or Homeopathic Medicine Number (DIN-HM) on the label. These numbers are indications that the product is classified as a NHP and falls under Health Canada's responsibility. For further information on NHPs that have been authorized for sale in Canada, see the Licensed Natural Health Products Database (LNHPD).
Health Canada is in the process of working with manufacturers to safely transition food products previously marketed as NHPs to the food regulatory framework. This has been facilitated through the issuance of Temporary Marketing Authorization Letters (TMAL) by the Food Directorate. For a complete list of TMALs see the List of Foods that have Received Temporary Marketing Authorization Letters.
For information on applying for licensing, see About Natural Health Product Regulations in Canada.
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