On this page
- Bilingual labelling
- Common name
- Date markings
- Storage instructions
- Name and principal place of business
- Country of origin
- List of ingredients
- Net quantity
- Nutrition labelling
- Lot code
- Commodity specific requirements
- Voluntary claims and statements
Retail products cover all food items being offered for sale at retail, as opposed to those food products found at other levels of trade (such as manufacturing, importing, wholesale, distributor or customs). The food products found at retail may have been produced and/or packaged and labelled on the retailer's own premises or may have originated at some other trade level.
The labelling requirements detailed in the following section focus on retail responsible products packaged and labelled in the retail establishment where they are sold. They are in addition to the core labelling, voluntary claims and statements, and food-specific requirements outlined in the Industry Labelling Tool.
As the retail outlet is the point at which the product is offered to the consumer, the retailer is responsible for ensuring that a product that is packaged and/or weighed in store meets regulatory requirements. Manufacturers and importers share joint responsibility with retailers in ensuring that factory-packed and imported foods are also properly labelled. Under both the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) and the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR), the manufacturer or importer of a prepackaged food is obligated to label the product before it is distributed for retail sale. Failure by the manufacturer or importer to do so does not exempt the retailer from the same responsibility. The retailer would also be liable if unlabelled goods were sold at retail; the retailer could not claim that it was the manufacturer or importer alone who was responsible.
Retailers are also responsible for the accuracy of any store signage or advertisements that are store generated or displayed to promote the sale of a product.
Most foods prepackaged at retail must be labelled, including those that are prepackaged but available to the consumer only on request (for example, consumer prepackaged foods kept in a service counter). Please note the FDR and the SFCR provide exemptions from the requirement to carry a label for certain prepackaged foods [B.01.003, FDR; 213, 214, 217, SFCR].
Most foods that are clerk served or are packaged by the consumer are not required to carry a label. Exceptions include horse-meat, barbecued, roasted or broiled meat and poultry, and mechanically tenderized beef, which must always carry a label. For more information, refer to Non-prepackaged foods that require a label and Mechanically tenderized beef.
In general, mandatory information on labels of consumer prepackaged food is required to be presented in both English and French. Certain products produced and/or packaged and labelled at retail may be considered as local foods for the purposes of a bilingual labelling exemption, depending on where they are sold [B.01.012(1), FDR; 206, SFCR].
Where this exemption for local foods applies to gift baskets made and sold at retail, any consumer prepackaged food present within the gift basket must be bilingually labelled as per regulatory requirements unless a bilingual labelling exemption applies to that food.
For additional information, refer to the Bilingual labelling page of the Industry Labelling Tool.
Products packaged at retail must bear a Common name on their label.
Any meat cut sold at retail must use the proper common name. Information on appropriate common names for retail meat cuts of beef, veal, pork, lamb and poultry can be found in the Meat cuts manual and common names for meat cuts of ostrich can be found on the Ostrich meat cut nomenclature page.
Veal sold at retail must be labelled in accordance with the definition of veal in the Beef, Bison, and Veal Carcass Grade Requirements - PDF (260 kb) document, as outlined in the Common name – meat and poultry products section.
The Food and Drugs Act (FDA) in conjunction with the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and their associated regulations prescribe common names and standards of identity for ground meat. Retailers are responsible for ensuring that the ground meats that they offer for sale are packaged and labelled in accordance with Canadian requirements, such as percentage of fat requirements related to declaring the common name of ground meat. This includes the common names for ground meat burgers and patties which may vary based on their compositional requirements.
For additional information, refer to the Common name page of the Industry Labelling Tool.
There are specific date marking requirements for foods packaged on the retail premises that have 90 days or less of anticipated shelf life. Additionally, foods repackaged by the retailer have further date marking requirements (see Foods repacked by a retailer).
Foods with an anticipated shelf life greater than 90 days are not required to be labelled with date marking information. If retailers choose to provide customers with this information, they must follow the required manner of declaration.
For additional information including manner of declaring, refer to the Date markings and storage instructions page of the Industry Labelling Tool.
Modified atmosphere packaged foods
When a product is removed from a modified atmosphere container or package at retail, the durable life of that product may change and the retailer becomes responsible for establishing appropriate durable life information. To determine in what manner the durable life for these foods must be provided when they have been repackaged or altered at retail, refer to Modified atmosphere packaged foods.
Exemptions from durable life information
Certain prepackaged products packaged on the retail premises may be exempt from durable life requirements.
In addition, foods packed at retail that are thawed at retail prior to sale without being repackaged are not required to bear a durable life date or a packaging date.
Previously frozen meat, poultry, or fish
Section B.01.080 of the FDR provides special labelling requirements for meat, poultry or fish that has been previously frozen (that is to say, frozen and thawed prior to sale). In this section, "frozen" means preserved by freezing temperature and does not include any surface freezing that may occur during holding and transportation.
Where meat (or meat by-products), poultry meat (or poultry meat by-products) or fish (or meat of any marine or fresh water animal) that has been frozen is thawed prior to sale, refer to requirements on Previously frozen meat and Previously frozen fish for more information.
Name and principal place of business
At retail, the name and principal place of business declaration is mandatory on all prepackaged products. Consumer prepackaged fresh fruits or vegetables that are packaged at retail and are visibly identifiable in their packaging are specifically exempted from this requirement, in addition to certain other prepackaged foods that are exempt from the requirement to carry a label.
The manner in which the name and principal place of business must be declared is dependent on the type of ownership of the store (whether the store is part of a franchise or independently owned). Refer to Declarations on retail specific products to determine the appropriate manner in which the name and principal place of business should be declared for products packaged at retail.
Country of origin
It is mandatory to indicate the country of origin on the labels of certain foods produced and/or packaged and labelled at retail, such as cheddar cheese packaged from imported bulk product.
For additional details, refer to the Country of origin page of the Industry Labelling Tool.
List of ingredients
Under the FDR, a list of ingredients is not required to appear on the majority of products prepackaged by the retailer, with the exception of mixed nuts and "seasoned" meat products.
Refer to the List of ingredients page of the Industry Labelling Tool for additional requirements and exemptions.
When a catch-weight food is sold to a retailer by a manufacturer, processor or producer, the retailer is responsible for applying the net quantity declaration before offering the food for sale to consumers, unless an exemption applies.
For catch-weight foods or foods packaged from bulk at retail, that are less than 1000 grams (that is to say, less than 1 kg), the net quantity may be expressed as a decimal fraction of a kilogram. For example, 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" [233(3), SFCR].
Consumer prepackaged foods that are packaged from bulk at retail, other than individually measured foods, and that declare the net quantity on the principal display panel in Canadian units are not required to show this information in metric units nor meet the minimum type size requirements prescribed for net quantity declaration [241.4(2), SFCR].
Refer to the Net quantity page of the Industry Labelling Tool for additional information.
Some prepackaged products sold at retail are exempted from displaying a Nutrition Facts table (NFt). Refer to the nutrition labelling exemptions section for more information.
Retail packaged foods with an available display surface ≥ 200 cm2 and labelled with a sticker are not exempt from declaring an NFt. See the section on retail packages with a ≥ 200 cm2 available display surface for more information on the specific formats that must be used and the flexibility to choose from several versions.
Refer to the Nutrition labelling page of the Industry Labelling Tool for additional requirements.
For information on the requirement for a lot code or other unique identifier for traceability purposes, consult Traceability-specific labelling requirements.
Please note that recommendations have been made regarding the use of potentially misleading lot codes. For additional information, please refer to the Lot code section on the Date markings and storage instructions page.
As well, refer to Legibility requirements for other specific labelling topics for information on the legibility requirements that are applicable to lot codes.
Commodity specific requirements
Fat and moisture declaration for cheese
Retailers are responsible for ensuring that cheese which they package from bulk on the retail premises are labelled in accordance with the requirements of the FDA and associated regulations, including the declaration of the percent (%) milk fat and moisture content of the product.
Barbecued, roasted or broiled meat, meat by-products, poultry and poultry by-products
Retailers are responsible for ensuring that meat (or meat by-products) and poultry (or poultry meat or poultry meat by-products) which are barbecued, roasted or broiled on the retail premises are labelled and stored in accordance with the requirements of the FDA and associated regulations. These requirements are summarized in the section Non-prepackaged foods that require a label.
Note that there are exemptions from list of ingredients that apply when these products are sold at retail [B.01.008(2)(d) and (e), FDR].
Phosphated meats and meat products packed at retail
In addition to the basic labelling requirements, prepackaged phosphated meat and poultry products must meet the requirements outlined in the Phosphated meats and meat products section.
Retailers who provide generic grade information in mass media advertisements or on in-store display signs (for example, "Our beef is cut from Canada A or higher") must ensure that any ungraded beef which they also advertise or offer for sale is properly identified as "Cut from ungraded beef". Alternatively, grade information provided could be product specific.
For more information, refer to the Retail beef cuts section under Grade names on the Meat and poultry products page.
At retail, advertisements include all in store signage including shelf talkers, printed flyers, educational and promotional material, and other forms of media such as radio, television and on-line information promoting the sale of a product. All information presented to promote the sale of a product must be truthful and not misleading.
Disclaimer on retail store signs
A disclaimer such as "subject to change with various suppliers" is not acceptable on retail store signs as labelling information covering a variety of foods on display. The retailer is responsible for providing accurate information concerning the product as sold and cannot be relieved of this responsibility by using a disclaimer.
Fortified gluten-free foods may be sold at retail but are not permitted to be advertised by the store to the general public. Refer to Advertising of gluten-free foods to the general public for more information.
Voluntary claims and statements
"Made in store" claims
"Made in store" claims are acceptable when the last substantial transformation occurred in the store where the product is sold.
Water-chilled net quantity claims for fresh and frozen poultry
For fresh or frozen poultry that has been water-chilled, food retailers may display one of the following signs, as appropriate, in close proximity to such product when offered for sale in retail food stores:
All water-chilled poultry and poultry pieces contain water absorbed during processing. The price of the product reflects the water content, and government regulations set limits for the amount of water absorbed.
Toute volaille et morceaux de volaille refroidis à l'eau contiennent de l'eau absorbée durant la transformation. Le prix du produit en tient compte, et les règlements gouvernementaux établissent les limites d'absorption d'eau permises.
When poultry has been chilled by a combination of water and air, which results in considerably less water pick-up, permitted wording would be:
All water-chilled poultry contains water absorbed during processing. Government regulations set limits for the amount of water absorbed.
Toute volaille refroidie à l'eau en absorbe durant la transformation. Les règlements gouvernementaux établissent les limites d'absorption permises.
- 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].
Note: 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.
- Common name
Common name, in respect of a food, means:
In the FDR:
- the name of the food printed in boldface type, but not in italics, in the FDR
- the name prescribed by any other federal regulation, or
- if the name of the food is not so printed or prescribed, the name by which the food is generally known or a name that is not generic and that describes the food [B.01.001(1), FDR]
In the SFCR:
- the name of the food that is printed in boldface type, but not in italics, in the Canadian standards of identity document
- the name of the food that is printed in boldface type, but not in italics, in the FDR, or
- in any other case, the name by which the food is generally known or a name that is not generic and that describes the food [1, SFCR]
- Consumer prepackaged
In respect of 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
In section 241.4 of the SFCR, individually measured means, with respect to a food, 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].
Person means an individual or an organization as defined in section 2 of the Criminal Code [2, FDA; 2, SFCA].
A person may therefore be an individual or an organization, and may include a consumer, a manufacturer, a retailer, an importer, a restaurant, any other commercial or industrial enterprise, an institution such as a school or hospital, and anyone else who sells, uses, or buys a food.
Prepackaged, in respect of a food, means packaged in a container in the manner in which the food is ordinarily sold to or used or purchased by a person, and includes consumer prepackaged [1, SFCR].
- Prepackaged product
Prepackaged product means any food that is contained in a package in the manner in which it is ordinarily sold to or used or purchased by a person [B.01.001(1), FDR].
This definition is closely aligned with the SFCR definition of prepackaged.
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