Net quantity on food labels
On this page
- Manner of declaring
- Related information
The principal display panel of consumer prepackaged products must include a net quantity declaration [221, Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR)]. For information on units of measurement, refer to Manner of declaring.
There are also specific requirements for the net quantity declaration on certain prepackaged food products other than consumer prepackaged [243, 244.1, SFCR]. For more information on these requirements refer to:
- dairy products
- shell eggs
- fish and seafood
- fresh fruits or vegetables
- processed fruit or vegetable products
- maple products
- meat and poultry products
In addition to the requirements in the SFCR, a net quantity declaration is required, under section 9 of the Weights and Measures Act (WMA), on prepackaged foods other than consumer prepackaged, such as shipping containers and foods for institutional use. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) does not administer or enforce the Weights and Measures Act. Refer to Measurement Canada for more information.
The following foods are exempt from the net quantity requirement [241.2, SFCR; 46, Weight and Measures Regulations (WMR)]:
- prepackaged individual servings of food prepared by a commissary and sold by automatic vending machines or mobile canteens
- prepackaged individual portions of food that are served by a restaurant or other commercial enterprise with meals or snacks, such as jams, sugar, crackers, ketchup, and salt
Note: the shipping or master container holding the individual portions is not exempt
- catch-weight foods sold to a retailer
Note: the retailer is responsible for applying the net quantity declaration before offering the food for sale to consumers. In addition, under the WMA, a net quantity declaration is required on the shipping container
- consumer prepackaged fresh fruits or vegetables sold in a retail store that are packaged in an unsealed transparent protective bag, if sold by weight (for example, cherries, grapes)
- foods exempt from carrying a label are not required to bear a net quantity declaration when sold at retail [213, SFCR]
- when a consumer prepackaged product consists of less than 7 identical and separately prepackaged products that are fully labelled and clearly visible at the time of sale, the outer package is exempt from net quantity declaration [241.5, SFCR]
- the 6 or less identical products must each be labelled with a net quantity declaration that is visible despite any outer packaging
- this rule applies in spite of section 239 of the SFCR which provides labelling requirements for when Two or more completely labelled products are sold together as a single unit
- consumer prepackaged raspberries or strawberries packaged in the field in containers with a capacity of 1.14 litres or less are not required to meet the requirements of the SFCR related to net quantity [241.3, SFCR]
Manner of declaring
On consumer prepackaged foods, the net quantity must be declared on the principal display panel in metric units [221, 232, SFCR]. However, consumer prepackaged foods that are packaged from bulk at retail, other than individually measured foods, can declare the net quantity on the principal display panel in Canadian units [241.4(2)(b), SFCR].
Generally, the net quantity must be indicated [231(b), 233(1), SFCR]:
- by volume for liquids: in millilitres (or for amounts of 1000 milliliters or more, in litres)
- by weight for solids: in grams (for amounts of 1000 grams or more, in kilograms)
- by count for certain foods
Refer to When to use weight, volume or count for additional information.
For catch-weight foods or foods packaged from bulk at retail, that are less than 1000 grams (that is to say, 1 kg), the net quantity may be expressed as a decimal fraction of a kilogram [233(3), SFCR].
The net quantity of a prepackaged raw small whole chicken is 980 grams. It is acceptable to declare the net quantity for this product as "0.980 kg".
A single space should be used to separate the number from the unit of measure. For example, 500 g is acceptable, whereas "500g", "500 g", and "500g" are unacceptable.
Phrases such as "net", "net weight", "net contents" or "net quantity" are voluntary and not required as part of the net quantity declaration.
When the quantity is less than 1, the numerical portion may be shown in either the decimal system with the figure zero preceding the decimal point (for example, 0.5 kilogram), or in words (for example, one-half kilogram) [235, SFCR]. Numerical fractions (for example, ⅛, ¼, ⅓, ½, ¾, ⅞, etc.) are not acceptable in the metric system and must never be used to express metric measure.
The net quantity must be rounded to 3 figures, unless the net quantity is below 100. If the net quantity is below 100, it may be rounded to 2 figures. In addition, any final zero appearing to the right of the decimal point need not be shown [234, SFCR].
Example: 453.59 becomes 454; 85.6 becomes 86; 6.43 becomes 6.4.
If the net quantity is exactly 500 grams or 500 millilitres, it may be expressed as [233(2), SFCR]:
- 0.5 kilograms/0.5 litres (or with the appropriate metric symbol for the units)
- one-half kg/one-half L, ℓ, or l
- one-half kilogram/one-half litre
- 500 g/500 mL, mℓ, ml
Language and symbols
Net quantity declarations are mandatory information and, therefore, must be bilingual [206(1), SFCR]. The following metric symbols are considered to be bilingual (English and French). They should not be followed by any punctuation.
g: for grams
kg: for kilograms
ml, mL or mℓ: for millilitres
l, L or ℓ: for litre
The above symbols are case sensitive and only litre and millilitre measurements have case or font options. The "g" for grams cannot be replaced by "G".
When words rather than 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" must appear as "gramme" in the French net quantity declaration "50 grammes".
The following table shows the correct spelling of metric units of measurement in English and French when words are used instead of symbols.
Table: Spelling of metric units of Measurement
In the French language, the decimal point is written as a comma rather than a period. This is acceptable.
Legibility and location
The declaration of net quantity on the labels of consumer prepackaged food must appear on the principal display panel and be in distinct contrast to any other information on the label [221, 230(a), SFCR].
A minimum type height of 1.6 mm, based on the lowercase letter "o", is required for all information in the net quantity declaration, except for the numbers which are to be shown in bold face type and in the size shown in the table below. These also apply when the numerical portion is written in words (for example, "one-half" litre) [210(2), 229(1)(a), 230(b), SFCR].
Table: Minimum type height for net quantity declaration
|Area of principal display surface||Minimum type height of numerals|
|square centimetres||square inches||millimetres||inches|
|≤ 32||≤ 5||1.6||1/16|
|> 32 to ≤ 258||> 5 to ≤ 40||3.2||1/8|
|> 258 to ≤ 645||> 40 to ≤ 100||6.4||1/4|
|> 645 to ≤ 2580||> 100 to ≤ 400||9.5||3/8|
|> 2580||> 400||12.7||1/2|
In the case where the net quantity declaration is shown on all or part of the surface of a display card, "Area of principal display surface" in the table above should be read as "Total area of the surface of the display card visible under customary conditions of sale or use" [229(2), SFCR].
Consumer prepackaged foods that are packaged from bulk at retail and declare the net quantity on the principal display panel in Canadian units and individually measured consumer prepackaged foods are not required to meet these requirements [241.4(1), (2)(a), SFCR].
When to use weight, volume or count
The document entitled Units of Measurement for the Net Quantity Declaration of Certain Foods lists the prepackaged products that are required to show their net quantity by weight [231(a), SFCR]. Examples include honey, cottage cheese and yogurt. Some of these foods are normally thought of as a "liquid" (for example, liquid whole egg), a "gas" (for example, aerosol foods) or "viscous" (for example, honey, molasses). By definition, catch-weight food products are also sold by weight.
Fluid measure or volume is required for almost all liquids. The document entitled Units of Measurement for the Net Quantity Declaration of Certain Foods lists the prepackaged products that are required to show their net quantity by volume [231(a), SFCR]. Examples include tomato sauce, soup and maple syrup. Some "solid" foods are included in this list (for example, olives, cherries, pickles), as well as several foods that are not usually thought of as liquids because they are not "pourable" (for example, jam, sour cream).
Some very viscous liquids (for example, pudding, oyster sauce) may be declared either by weight, by volume, or by both weight and volume provided both are accurate and not presented in a deceptive manner.
Some foods, such as canned shellfish and frozen glazed fish, are packed in brine, water or other liquid that is not normally consumed. The document entitled Units of Measurement for the Net Quantity Declaration of Certain Foods lists the prepackaged products that are required to show their net quantity by weight of the edible contents in the container (that is to say, drained weight) [231(a), SFCR]. This does not include the free liquid or glaze content.
While a drained weight methodology is used to determine the net quantity declaration of these products, the words "drained weight" are not required in the declaration.
Some foods listed in the document entitled Minimum Drained Weights and Average Drained Weights for Processed Fruit or Vegetable Products in a Hermetically Sealed Package require a minimum drained weight in standardized container sizes even though the net quantity is declared by volume [197, SFCR].
The document entitled Units of Measurement for the Net Quantity Declaration of Certain Foods lists the prepackaged products that are required to show their net quantity by numerical count [231(a), SFCR]. Examples include canned or frozen corn-on-the-cob. It is acceptable to declare the net quantity of certain other products by numerical count (for example, "one dozen donuts" or "one dozen dinner buns").
Established trade practices
For a number of products, the method of expressing the net quantity is neither specified in any set of regulations, nor does it follow the general requirement of declaring solid products by weight and liquid products by volume. Subparagraph 231(b)(ii) of the SFCR provides for net quantity to be declared according to the established trade practices in these situations. You can find more information on established trade practices for net quantity declarations for foods such as fruit cakes, donuts and popcorn in the table below:
Table: Established trade practices for declaring net quantity
|Buns or rolls
(for example, dinner buns or rolls)
|Hard candies in a roll||X||X|
|Frozen non-dairy creamer||X||X|
|Frozen non-dairy whipped topping||X|
|Hot dog and hamburger buns||X|
|Hot cross buns||X|
|Ice cream sandwich||X|
|Pies (a size declaration (for example, "a 9" pie") may also be provided)||X|
(sold from bulk on retail premises)
|Squares (for example, brownies, Nanaimo bars, etc.)||X|
|Sticky buns/ sweet buns||X|
(for example, garlic tablets)
(both methods of expression are encouraged, however count is optional)
It should be noted that, in addition to the mandatory requirements, a product may also be voluntarily marked in the alternative manner (for example, if a "weight" declaration is mandatory, then a "numerical count" may be provided as well).
Optional additional information
Canadian units of measure
Although Canadian (previously named "Imperial") units of measure are not required on labels, they are permitted to be used in addition to the required metric units. When the net quantity is shown in both metric units and Canadian units, the metric units should be declared first and the 2 units of measure must be grouped together on the label with no intervening material, other than symbols or pictograms shown in accordance with the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act [236, SFCR].
500 g net quantity / quantité nette 17.6 oz
Sufficient spacing should be placed between the 2 declarations to avoid confusion. However, they need not appear on the same horizontal line. The Canadian declaration may be placed below the metric declaration.
4 oz fl
114 ml 4 oz fl
"Fluid ounces" and "ounces" are not the same in Canadian units and therefore are not interchangeable. If Canadian units are used, fluids such as coffee and soft drinks must always be described as "fluid ounces" rather than "ounces" [237(1), SFCR].
The following conversions may be used:
1 fl oz Canadian = 28.413 ml
1 oz = 28.350 g
U.S. (American) units
U.S. (American) units of measure may also be used on labels provided that an appropriate and accurate metric net quantity is declared. This may be instead of or in addition to the Canadian measure.
There is a difference between U.S. and Canadian fluid measure. The U.S. fluid ounce is slightly larger than the Canadian fluid ounce: 1 fl oz U.S. = 1.041 fl oz Canadian = 29.574 ml.
With the exception of the fluid ounce measure, the U.S. measure is smaller than the Canadian measure. For this reason, all U.S. units of volume, except for the fluid ounce, may be shown in addition to the metric units provided that the U.S. units are identified as "U.S.". This distinction is not necessary in cases where the U.S. unit is equal to or larger than the corresponding Canadian measure (for example, in the case of U.S. fluid ounces) because Canadian consumers would receive at least as much as they expect. Non metric declarations (for example, fluid ounces, pounds, quarts, etc.), if shown, may be in English or French.
Table: Canada and U.S. alternate units of measurement
|Measure||Alternate measure||Rounded metric|
|1 Canadian pint||20 Canadian fluid ounces||568 ml|
|1 U.S. pint||16 U.S. fluid ounces||473 ml|
|1 Canadian quart||40 Canadian fluid ounces||1.14 ℓ|
|1 U.S. quart||32 U.S. fluid ounces||946 ml|
|1 Canadian gallon||160 Canadian fluid ounces||4.55 ℓ|
|1 U.S. gallon||128 U.S. fluid ounces||3.78 ℓ|
Words and symbols for optional units
The following table shows the correct spelling of optional additional units of measurement in English and French, and the acceptable symbol(s).
Table: Accepted spelling and symbols for additional units of measure
|fluid ounce (fl oz)||once fluide (oz liq)||oz fl or fl oz liq|
|pint (pt)||chopine (chop)|
|quart (qt)||pinte (pte)|
European "e" symbol
This symbol is used by some countries in the European Union to indicate an average net weight system. It is acceptable to use the European Union symbol "e" alongside a net quantity declaration on imported products, provided that all net quantity requirements are met.
Qualification of the net quantity declaration is defined as "false and misleading" under paragraph 199(1)(a) of the SFCR and therefore prohibited. Examples of qualified net quantities include:
- "big litre"
- "full litre"
- "average weight"
Other representations likely to deceive the consumer with respect to the net quantity of a prepackaged food are also prohibited.
Supplementary net quantity information is considered voluntary on food products. However, once a company chooses to place such information on a food label, it must ensure that the statement is not likely to deceive a consumer with respect to the net quantity of a prepackaged product.
For example, although cookies are required to be sold by weight, supplementary information such as a net quantity statement by count giving either the true count, for example, "12 cookies", or a non-precise indication of the minimum count of cookies present is acceptable. Examples of supplementary minimal count information: "at least 12 cookies", "not less than 12 cookies", "more than 12 cookies", "12-14 cookies" "number of cookies may vary from 12 to 14 cookies". In these examples, every package must contain at least 12 cookies and the net quantity by weight must meet the applicable regulatory requirements.
Indications such as "approximately" are too ambiguous and do not indicate a minimum that the consumer could expect, therefore, "approximately" is not an appropriate term.
This supplementary information is not deemed to be a declaration of the number of servings for the application of section 240 of the SFCR.
Net quantity verification
The SFCR contain the prescribed tolerances for net quantity declarations and requirements for inspection of a lot of food to determine compliance of consumer prepackaged foods [199(3) and (5), 200, SFCR]. For guidance on how the Canadian Food Inspection Agency verifies the net quantity declared on consumer prepackaged foods, refer to Operational procedure: Net quantity verification.
If a manufacturer chooses to make claims referring to net quantity, they will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. For more information on specific claims, refer to Quantity claims.
Statements on under-filled packages
In general, it is not acceptable to under-fill a container with a product. For example, it is not acceptable to package 200 millitres of a beverage in a container having a capacity of 250 millitres. This would result in a head-space of at least 24%, often referred to as "slack-fill", and would be misleading with respect to the quantity of the product [6(1), SFCA].
However, this practice may be acceptable if the product justifiably requires an extra space within the container. In this case, a statement explaining the purpose of the extra space is required on the label. For example, a milk shake requires an extra space for mixing and therefore would be required to carry a statement such as "An extra space is provided for shaking purposes".
A net quantity declaration is not required to be stated in an advertisement. If a manufacturer chooses to declare the net quantity of a prepackaged product in an advertisement, then the net quantity declared must be in accordance with section 216 of the SFCR. For example, the net quantity of a food cannot be less than the amount of food stated in an advertisement, as that would be misleading.
When the label shows the net quantity in both metric and Canadian units, the net quantity of a product may be stated in the advertisement in either metric or Canadian units. For example, cookies may be advertised in ounces, without any reference to the gram weight, and vice versa, provided that both grams (metric measure) and ounces (Canadian measure) are on the label of the product being advertised [241.1, SFCR].
When the label shows only metric units, a food may be advertised in Canadian units, provided that metric units are also stated in the advertisement. However, it is not acceptable to state only the Canadian units in the advertisement.
Two or more completely labelled products sold as a single unit
When 2 or more completely labelled products are sold together as a single unit, section 239 of the SFCR requires that the following information be shown in the declaration of net quantity:
- the number of products in each class along with the identity (that is to say, common name) of each class, and
- the total net quantity of each class in the unit or the individual net quantity of each identical product in the unit
The foods may be identical (for example, soft drink cans), similar (for example, assorted candy bars) or different, (for example, a taco kit made up of a tin of taco sauce, a packet of seasoning mix and a package of taco shells in which each is completely labelled enclosed in a box). Gift baskets made up of completely labelled fancy biscuits, candies and cheeses, etc., together in an over wrapped basket also fall into this category. A "class" of foods means very closely related foods such as several different brands of candy bars or different varieties of breakfast cereals.
When the foods making up the finished product are 2 individually packaged and completely labelled single containers of 2 different product classes, the net quantity must be shown for both foods.
Macaroni 144 g
Parmesan Cheese Sauce Mix 54 g
When the foods making up the finished product are 2 individually packaged single containers that are not completely labelled, section 239 of the SFCR does not apply and, as such, the net quantity on the finished product could be either shown as above or simply as "Macaroni Casserole Mix 198 g", where the quantity of both foods are combined. When a liquid food and a solid food, such as tomato sauce and dry pizza dough mix, make up 1 prepackaged food, the net quantity of the finished product may be declared in terms of:
- the combined weight of all of the foods that make up the finished product, or
- the volume of any liquid food and the weight of any solid food which make up the finished product
The total net quantity of each class in the unit or the individual net quantity of each identical product in the unit must be stated. For example, "24 tins of Ginger Ale 8.52 L" or "Ginger Ale - 24 cans × 355 ml" or "6 Rice Packets 1 kg & 6 Seasoning Packets 80 g".
Net quantity of servings
When a label or advertisement includes a recipe that refers to the number of servings the recipe makes, the net quantity of each serving of the recipe food is not required to be declared.
This should not be confused with the requirement of section 241 of the SFCR. When there is a reference on the label to the number of servings in a food (as sold), a metric declaration of net quantity of each serving is required on the label, immediately adjacent to the reference, in letters and figures of the same size as those in which the reference is made. The net quantity of each serving does not, however, need to be declared when the label bears a Nutrition Facts table (NFt) that already shows the serving size of the food [241(4), SFCR].
As a general rule, if the net quantity of a serving of food is shown on the label in both metric and Canadian units, the net quantity of a serving of food may be stated in an advertisement in either metric or Canadian units [241.1, SFCR].
- Canadian unit
Canadian unit means a unit of measurement that is set out in Schedule II to the Weights and Measures Act [198, SFCR].
- Catch-weight food
Catch-weight food means a food that because of its nature cannot normally be portioned to a predetermined fixed quantity and is, as a result, sold in containers of varying quantities [1, SFCR].
While all catch-weight foods are individually measured, all individually measured commodities are not necessarily catch-weight. For example, liquids are not normally catch-weight foods because they can be measured to predetermined volumes.
Class means very closely related foods. For example, several different brands of candy bars or different varieties of breakfast cereal are foods in a class.
- Consumer prepackaged
Consumer prepackaged, in respect to a food, means packaged in a container in the manner in which the food is ordinarily sold to or used or purchased by an individual, or in which the food may reasonably be expected to be obtained by an individual, without being repackaged, to be used for non-commercial purposes [1, SFCR].
- Individually measured
For the purpose of section 241.4 of the SFCR, individually measured, in respect to a food, means that the food is measured and packaged in a manner other than in accordance with a predetermined fixed quantity and, as a result, is sold in varying quantities [241.4(3), SFCR].
- Metric unit
Metric unit means a unit of measurement that is set out in Schedule I to the Weights and Measures Act [198, SFCR].
- Principal display surface
Principal display surface, in respect of the container of a consumer prepackaged food, means
- (a) if the container has a surface that is displayed or visible under customary conditions of sale or use, the total area of that surface, excluding any surface that is the top of the container;
- (b) if the container has a lid that is the part of the container that is displayed or visible under customary conditions of sale or use, the total area of the top surface of the lid;
- (c) if the container does not have a particular surface that is displayed or visible under customary conditions of sale or use, 40% of the total surface area of the container, excluding any surface area that is its top and bottom, if it is possible for that 40% to be displayed or visible under customary conditions of sale or use;
- (d) if the container is a bag with surfaces of equal dimensions, the total area of one of the surfaces;
- (e) if the container is a bag with surfaces of different dimensions, the total area of one of the largest surfaces;
- (f) despite paragraphs (a) to (e), if the container does not have a surface that is displayed or visible under customary conditions of sale or use to which a label can be applied, the total area of one side of a tag that is attached to the container;
- (g) despite paragraphs (a) to (e), if the container contains wine that is exposed for sale, any part of the surface of the container, excluding its top and bottom, that can be seen without having to turn the container; and
- (h) if the container is a wrapper or confining band that is so narrow in relation to the size of the food that it cannot reasonably be considered to have any surface that is displayed or visible under customary conditions of sale or use, the total area of one side of a tag that is attached to the container [1, SFCR].
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