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Food Labelling Modernization Initiative Phase III Engagement on Key Proposals to Modernize the Food Labelling SystemMonday, March 12, 2018 > 13:08:37
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) launched the Food Labelling Modernization (FLM) initiative in June 2013. A multi-phased engagement approach was used for this initiative. Feedback from Phase I engagement (2013-2014) helped to identify the key issues on the food labelling system. In the Phase II engagement (2015), we presented proposed options to modernize the system.
Based on what we heard during Phases I and II, the CFIA developed key proposals to modernize food labelling and carried out Phase III engagement from December 2016 to March 2017. This report is a summary of the stakeholder feedback to the Phase III engagement, and highlights the most common themes we heard. Additional comments that were less prevalent are also being considered by the CFIA, but may not be reflected in this report.
The CFIA and Health Canada share responsibility for food labelling in Canada. Health Canada establishes food labelling requirements related to health and safety, such as nutrition and allergen labelling. The CFIA administers non-health and safety labelling requirements such as those related to misrepresentation, composition, and origin. In addition, the CFIA enforces all federal food labelling requirements.
Concurrent to CFIA's Food Labelling Modernization initiative, Health Canada is also modernizing food labelling provisions under its mandate. While the CFIA and Health Canada have distinct roles in food labelling, the results of the modernization efforts of both departments will converge on Canadian food labels once in effect. In recognition of this, throughout Phase III engagement, joint Health Canada-CFIA sessions aimed at providing a comprehensive overview were held with stakeholders. Additionally, the CFIA and Health Canada recognize the need to coordinate modernization timelines to facilitate implementation.
The views expressed herein are those raised by the stakeholders who participated in FLM Phase III engagement activities and do not necessarily reflect those of the CFIA (the Agency) or the Government of Canada.
The objective of the FLM initiative is a modern and innovative food labelling system within CFIA's responsibility, which responds to current and future challenges. It focuses on four key areas: regulations; service delivery; policy and program development; and roles, responsibilities and partnerships.
Phase III of the FLM initiative included proposals to change specific labelling requirements, modernize the regulatory framework, and address previous regulatory commitments. A summary of each proposal is provided at the beginning of each section of this report, and additional details can be found in the Phase III engagement discussion paper.
The proposals reflected previous feedback from a range of stakeholders, in particular consumers and industry. They aimed to improve the information available on food labels to enable informed purchasing decisions, provide consistency of rules across foods, align with international best practices and trading partners, and move toward a framework that is more flexible and facilitates innovation.
Phase III consultations used a combination of face-to-face discussions, webinars, and an online questionnaire. Over 2,500 stakeholders participated in these activities. The online questionnaire received 1,023 responses: 53% consumer and consumer associations, 23% industry and industry associations, 8% government and 16% others (e.g. health professionals, academia, etc.). In addition, the CFIA also considered comments on the proposed Safe Food for Canadians Regulations Canada Gazette I consultation relevant to FLM.
The statistics on the level of stakeholder support cited throughout this report are based on responses to the online questionnaire. The industry and consumer breakdowns were possible as stakeholders were asked to self-identify their affiliation. Percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number. The percentage is based on the individual number of responses with no weighting applied to responses provided on behalf of a group or association. However, during the qualitative analysis and in determining the next steps, appropriate consideration of representation will be given to responses received from groups such as industry and consumer associations representing a number of members.
The CFIA also received feedback that was out of the scope of CFIA's mandate or of the FLM initiative. These comments are shared with the government departments responsible for the topic, or recorded for future CFIA consideration, as appropriate.
Summary of What We Heard
Overall, stakeholders supported modernizing the food labelling system, and welcomed the opportunity to provide comments and feedback to this initiative. The following is a high level summary of what we heard.
- Consumers supported proposals that enhance their access to and understanding of the food labelling information that helps them make their food purchasing decisions.
- Industry supported proposals that provide them with flexibility and allow innovation. They supported more outcome-based approaches, alignment with international standards and trading partners, and more streamlined regulations.
- While a majority of stakeholders supported all of the proposals, the level of support varied. For all of the proposals, a number of considerations and suggestions were raised.
- Alignment of the various ongoing labelling modernization initiatives is important to minimize impacts to industry. A longer transition period helps reduce cost of compliance.
To read the rest of the report click here.