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Bilingual food labelling

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Consumer prepackaged food

Mandatory information on consumer prepackaged food must be shown in both official languages, that is, French and English. This includes core labelling requirements, such as common name, and prescribed words or expressions for specific foods [206, Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR); B.01.012(2), Food and Drug Regulations (FDR)].

The following are exceptions and can be labelled in 1 official language:

Shipping containers

Shipping containers destined to a commercial or industrial enterprise or an institution are generally exempt from bilingual labelling provided they are not resold to consumers at retail and all mandatory information for shipping containers is provided in 1 official language [B.01.012(11), FDR; 205(1), SFCR]. However, if the same shipping container is offered for sale to consumers at retail (for example, at a warehouse outlet), bilingual labelling requirements apply.

Specific words or expressions on the label of certain foods prepackaged in shipping containers are however required to be shown in both English and French, except for specialty foods, local foods or test market foods [205(2), SFCR]. These words or expressions include:


As a general rule, information on the labels of the following foods may be in 1 official language only, when they meet the definitions and specific conditions outlined in the text that follows:

Specialty foods

A food that meets the definition of specialty food may be labelled in either official language [B.01.012(7), FDR; 205(2), 206(1), SFCR].

A specialty food is defined as a food – other than a human milk fortifier – that:

For example, Kosher foods for Passover and sacramental wines and host wafers, when sold to religious institutions, are considered to be examples of specialty foods that have special religious significance and are used in religious ceremonies. In these situations, they are exempt from bilingual labelling requirements.

Kosher foods, in general, are not considered to be specialty foods. However, Kosher foods for Passover sold at retail 40 days before and 20 days after Passover are intended to be used in religious ceremonies and may be labelled in 1 official language. Outside this time frame, these foods must be labelled bilingually when sold at retail.

Likewise, host wafers and halal foods are not considered to be specialty foods when sold at retail because they are not necessarily sold for use in religious ceremonies. In these situations, these foods must be fully labelled in both official languages.

Note: Foods must meet all the applicable conditions in the regulatory definition for specialty foods for the bilingual labelling exemption to apply. The majority of imported foods are not considered to meet the definition of "specialty food" outlined above and are therefore not eligible for the bilingual labelling exemption. This is due to the widespread availability and consumption of a variety of foods imported into Canada from various countries.

Local foods

A local food for the purposes of the bilingual labelling exemption is defined as a food that is sold only in the local government unit in which it is manufactured, processed or packagedFootnote 1 and/or 1 or more local government units that are immediately adjacent to the one in which it is manufactured, processed, produced or packagedFootnote 1 [B.01.012(1), FDR; 207(c), SFCR].

For a local food to be exempt from bilingual labelling requirements [B.01.012(3), FDR; 205(2), 206(1), SFCR], it must meet the above definition and the following conditions:

Local foods are not exempt from the bilingual requirements when both official languages are the mother tongue of less than 10% of the population residing in a local government unit. For example, if the mother tongue of a local government unit consists of only 9% French and 9% English, along with several different languages totalling 82% of the population, the food would be required to be labelled in both official languages, that is, French and English [B.01.012(4), FDR]. The exemption also does not apply where each official language is the mother tongue for more than 10% of its residents.

Note: Local foods for the purposes of the bilingual labelling exemption are defined by regulations and are not to be confused with "local" origin claims.

An example of a local food for the purposes of the bilingual labelling exemption is a product manufactured in Burnaby (BC) and sold only in Burnaby and the local government units which are immediately adjacent to Burnaby, that is, in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Richmond, New Westminster, Coquitlam and Port Moody. However, as soon as this food is sold beyond the local government units adjacent to Burnaby such as West Vancouver, Delta, Surrey, and Port Coquitlam, Anmore and Belcarra in British Columbia or Kamsack (SK) and Barrie (ON), it ceases to be a local food for the purposes of a bilingual labelling exemption and must be labelled bilingually wherever sold.

Example of a Local Food for the Purposes of the Bilingual Labelling Exemption. Description follows.
Description for image: Example of a local food for the purposes of the bilingual labelling exemption.

Areas considered adjacent to the local government unit where manufactured:

  • Vancouver
  • North Vancouver
  • Richmond
  • New Westminster
  • Coquitlam
  • Port Moody

Areas not considered adjacent to the local government unit where manufactured:

  • West Vancouver
  • Delta
  • Surrey
  • Port Coquitlam
  • Anmore
  • Belcarra

Test market foods

Foods which are approved for a test market may be exempt from bilingual labelling requirements. For detailed information on foods that may be considered for a test market, conditions that must be met and applying for a test market, refer to Test marketing and other authorizations.

Manner of declaring

Legibility and location


Labelling information must meet applicable legibility prescribed type height requirements. The English and French information must meet minimum type height requirements but it is not required to be in equal type height. For example, the French common name could appear in 6.4 mm type height on the principal display panel while the English common name appears in 1.6 mm, regardless of whether it appears on the same principal display panel or on a separate English-only principal display panel. However, for consistency in legibility and to help ensure information can be easily read, it is encouraged that information be presented in the same type height.


Bilingual information required to be on the principal display panel may be presented in one of the following ways:

For information that may appear on parts of the label other than the principal display panel, bilingual information may be presented in several ways:

When requirements specify "with no intervening material" (for example, a claim such as "Reduced in trans fatty acids" which must be accompanied by a supporting statement of the amount of energy or the nutrient per serving of stated size with no intervening material and in the same size type and prominence), information in the other language is considered intervening material.

Other jurisdictions

Some provinces may have additional language requirements for products marketed within their jurisdiction. For example, the province of Quebec has additional requirements concerning the use of the French language on all products marketed in Quebec.

Sous-ministériat à la santé animale et à l'inspection des aliments
200 Chemin Sainte-Foy
, Quebec G1R 4X6
Telephone: 418-380-2120 and 1-800-463-5023
Fax: 418-380-2169

Quebec French language labelling information can be found at the l'Office de la langue française - (French only).

Further information on bilingual labelling

Bilingual labelling of voluntary information

In general information on labels and in advertisements that is not part of mandatory information (such as recipes on a can of soup or games on a box of cereal) is not subject to bilingual requirements at the federal level, although manufacturers and importers are encouraged to present such information bilingually. Some examples exist and are outlined below. It is recommended that provincial language requirements also be consulted, see Other jurisdictions for more information.

Certain voluntary information, when added to labels or advertisements, is subject to additional regulatory requirements and must be presented bilingually. These are:

Languages other than English and French

Other languages, in addition to English and French, may be used in labels and advertisements provided the mandatory information is shown in English and French on the label and the information in another language does not violate the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and regulations, the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and regulations, or any other federal legislation. Labelling and advertising information must be truthful and not misleading regardless of the language in which it is presented.

The format and presentation of the Nutrition Facts table are specifically prescribed and there is no provision for the use of other languages within the table. Although other languages are not permitted within the Nutrition Facts table, these could appear outside the Nutrition Facts table provided the Nutrition Facts table is shown in English and French on the label and the information in another language does not violate the FDA and regulations, the SFCA and regulations, or any other federal legislation. Refer to Language in Presentation of the Nutrition Facts table for more information.

Net quantity symbols

Net quantity declarations are mandatory information and, therefore, must be bilingual; refer to Language and symbols for more information. The list of SI (that is International System of Units) used in the net quantity statement are considered bilingual. When words rather than SI symbols are used as net quantity declarations, they must appear in both official languages. For example, the English word "gram" in the declaration "50 grams" should appear as "gramme" in the French net quantity declaration "50 grammes".

Words such as "net weight" that may precede or follow the net quantity declaration are encouraged to be in both French and English when used.


Local government unit

Local government unit means a city, metropolitan government area, town, village, municipality or other area of local government but does not include any local government unit situated within a bilingual district established under the Official Languages Act [B.01.012(1), FDR].

Mother tongue

Mother tongueFootnote 2 means the language first learned in childhood by persons in any area of Canada and still understood by them as ascertained by the decennial census taken immediately preceding the date on which the food is sold to the consumer [B.01.012(1), FDR].

Official languages

Official languages means the English language and the French language [B.01.012(1), FDR].

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