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Shipping containers

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For the purposes of this information, foods in shipping containers are considered to be prepackaged foods and include those that are packaged in any outer receptacle in which foods are sold or distributed at levels of trade other than to consumers at the retail level (that is to say, not consumer prepackaged). The foods inside shipping containers may be in bulk (meaning not further packaged inside the shipping container) or they may be further packaged into smaller units. Shipping containers may be destined for:

In the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR), shipping containers must meet the requirements that apply to prepackaged foods, as well as those that apply to "prepackaged other than consumer prepackaged" foods. For more information on the terminology used in the SFCR, refer to definition of "prepackaged" and "consumer prepackaged".

As mentioned in the labelling legislative framework, the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR), as well as the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and the SFCR apply to foods at all levels of trade (retail and non-retail), which includes foods in shipping containers.

The Weights and Measurements Act (WMA) and the Weights and Measures Regulations (WMR) also apply at all levels of trade, and include a requirement for a net quantity declaration on shipping containers. However, the WMA and WMR are not enforced by the CFIA. Refer to Measurement Canada for more information.

Labelling requirements


The following mandatory labelling requirements apply to prepackaged other than consumer prepackaged foods, including shipping containers. For further information on each requirement, visit the Industry Labelling Tool.

Nutrition labelling

The contents of a shipping container and their intended use will dictate the type of nutrition labelling required on the shipping container. These are:


Foods for further preparation

Foods in shipping containers that are imported or interprovincially traded are often destined for further preparation. When labelled with the expression "For Further Preparation Only" or "pour conditionnement ultérieur seulement", foods are permitted to be non-compliant with the certain requirements of the SFCA and SFCR, provided they are brought into compliance by a licence holder within a set period of time [18, SFCR].

Some exceptions apply. For more information, refer to the exceptions and non-applications section of the guidance on Regulatory requirement: Trade.

Exemptions from specific requirements

Shipping containers are generally exempt from date marking and bilingual labelling requirements.

Date marking: A durable life date is generally not required on shipping containers, even if the products have a durable life of 90 days or less. However, if the container were to be sold to consumers at the retail level (as in some warehouse outlets), durable life date labelling would be required. For more information, refer to Date markings and storage instructions.

Bilingual labelling: Labelling information required by the FDR and SFCR on shipping containers destined for a commercial or industrial enterprise or an institution can generally be shown in only one official language, unless the shipping container and its contents are resold as a one unit prepackaged product to a consumer at the retail level. Certain exceptions may apply [B.01.012(11), FDR; 205, SFCR]. For more information, refer to Bilingual labelling.

Product specific labelling requirements

Irradiated foods

Shipping containers of irradiated foods have specific requirements beyond those for irradiated consumer prepackaged foods.

Shipping containers do not require the symbol that indicates the irradiated food [B.01.035(8), FDR].

For more information, refer to Irradiated foods.

Specific foods

Certain food commodities have specific requirements with respect to shipping containers. These can be found on the Food-specific labelling requirements pages of the Industry Labelling Tool and are those that apply to prepackaged foods, as well as prepackaged other than consumer prepackaged foods.

Claims and representations

Any claims or representations made on or with respect to food in a shipping container are subject to the same provisions outlined in the Claims and statements section of the Industry Labelling Tool.


Consumer prepackaged
Consumer prepackaged, in respect of a food, means a food 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].

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].

This definition is closely aligned with the FDR definition of prepackaged product.

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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