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Government of Canada proposes changes to nutrition information on food labels

Government of Canada proposes changes to nutrition information on food labels

Today, the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health, launched a series of online public consultations on proposed changes that will improve the way nutrition information is presented on labels.

The proposed changes are to the format of the Nutrition Facts table, the list of ingredients, the list of nutrients that must appear in the table, and to the Daily Values.

It also includes changing how ingredients are listed, including grouping sugars together, so parents and consumers have a clearer picture of how much sugar is added to the food and the label is easier to read.

Finally, another key proposal is to provide guidelines to industry to make the serving sizes displayed in the Nutrition Facts table more consistent among similar products.

The overall goal of the proposed changes is to provide Canadians with the nutrition information they need to make informed decisions about the foods they buy and prepare for themselves and their families.

These consultations are part of a broader commitment made by the Government of Canada during the 2013 Speech from the Throne to consult with Canadians on how to improve the way nutrition information is presented on food labels.

The consultations will run for 60 days, from July 14 to September 11, 2014.

Proposed Changes to the Nutrition Facts Table

Some of the proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts table include:

(Click to enlarge)

Proposed changes to Nutrition Facts Table

  • Refreshing the format to make the Nutrition Facts table easier to read and to emphasize certain elements, such as Calories, to help Canadians quickly locate this information.

  • Changing the ordering of the nutrients in a way that all of the nutrients that have a % Daily Value (DV) listed in the upper part of the table are the nutrients that Canadians may want less of, and that the nutrients with a % DV listed in the lower part of the table are the nutrients that Canadians may want more of.

  • Requiring information about the amount of "added sugars" in a food product and/or adding a % DV for "total sugars" to help consumers identify if there is a lot of sugars in a food product using the education message on the % DV at the bottom of the table.

  • Requiring the declaration of potassium and vitamin D, nutrients that many in the Canadian population are not getting enough of, which puts them at higher risk for chronic disease. Vitamin D is important for its role in bone health. Potassium is beneficial in lowering blood pressure. Vitamins A and C would no longer be required on the label because there is no evidence of a deficiency of these vitamins in the general population, though manufacturers could declare them voluntarily.

  • Adding a message at the bottom of the Nutrition Facts table that would read: "5% DV or less is a little, 15% DV or more is a lot". This message is in line with Health Canada's education campaign and would provide Canadians a reminder on how to use the %Daily Value.

Proposed Changes to the List of Ingredients

The list of ingredients shows all the ingredients in a packaged food from most to least. It is an important tool for consumers to understand the composition of a food, but many Canadians have indicated that they often find it difficult to locate and read the list of ingredients on food labels.

Some of the proposed changes to the list of ingredients include:

Proposed changes to List of Ingredients

  • Requiring a consistent look for the list of ingredients, similar to the Nutrition Facts table.

  • Requiring the list of ingredients to appear in a distinctive box with a title, using black type on a white or neutral background for contrast, using upper and lower case letters, and having a minimum font size.
More information can be found on the Health Canada website