Ground meat receives exemption from new federal front of package label requirements

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Details on Health Canada’s new front of package (FOP) labelling have been released, and the regulations include some welcome news for livestock producers.

Under the original proposal, ground beef and pork would have been labelled as “high in saturated fat,” prompting producers and industry organizations to lobby against the inclusion. The beef and pork sectors said the requirement would do more harm than good, as the warning could serve as a deterrent to purchasing the nutrient-dense food, plus it could send the wrong message to export customers, as well.

The regulations published on June 30 say single ingredient food items, such a ground beef, poultry, pork and fish, will be exempt from the new FOP labelling that warns Canadians about high percentages of saturated fat, sugar and sodium.

“We are pleased that the Government of Canada listened to our sector’s concerns and reversed the policy proposal on ground beef and pork–nutrient-dense, affordable proteins. Thank you to all beef and pork producers and consumers across the country for raising the issue with elected representatives,” says the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association in a statement that followed the announcement from the federal government.

The new FOP labelling will hone in on multi-ingredient items that surpass a threshold of either saturated fat, sugar or sodium. The label will include a magnifying glass to draw consumers attention to the information and the government says this is all in an effort to reduce over-consumption of these particular ingredients that have been linked to chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Foods that will require a FOP nutrition symbol include:

  • General prepackaged foods that meet or exceed 15% daily value (DV) of saturated fat, sugars or sodium.
    • Such foods could include deli meats, soups, frozen desserts or puddings.
  • Prepackaged foods with a small reference amount (less than 30 g or mL) that meet or exceed 10% DV of saturated fat, sugars or sodium.
    • Because these foods are typically consumed in smaller amounts and can be concentrated sources of these nutrients, they have a lower threshold. Such foods could include pickles, salad dressing, cookies or breakfast cereals.
  • Prepackaged main dishes with a reference amount of 200 g that meet or exceed 30% DV of saturated fat, sugars or sodium.
    • Because foods that are consumed as a main dish can be expected to make up more of your daily intake of nutrients, they have a higher threshold.
      Such foods could include frozen lasagna, meat pie or pizza.

Exemptions from the FOP nutrition symbol:

Health Canada is exempting certain foods from the requirement to display a FOP nutrition symbol. There are three different types of exemptions:

  • Health-related exemptions — Foods that have a recognized health protection benefit for the whole population or vulnerable sub-populations.
    • This includes: whole or cut vegetables and fruits that are fresh, frozen, canned or dried; 2% and whole milk; eggs; foods with a healthy fat profile, such as vegetable oils, nuts and fatty fish; and any combination of these foods.
      • These foods lose their exemption when they are made with an ingredient that contains saturated fat, sugars and/or sodium.
    • Foods that are important sources of “shortfall nutrients,” which are nutrients that are not readily available in other foods and that most people in Canada don’t get enough of.
      • For example, many cheeses and yogurts made from dairy products are exempt from requiring a nutrition symbol for naturally occurring (not added) saturated fat and sugars (i.e., lactose) because dairy products are important contributors to the calcium intake of Canadians. Calcium is an essential nutrient that many Canadians do not get enough of, and insufficient calcium is linked to the development of osteoporosis.
      • In addition, many cheeses are exempt from requiring a nutrition symbol for sodium since sodium is required in the cheese-making process. For these products to benefit from an exemption they must contain a specific percentage of the DV for calcium.
    • The ongoing need for this exemption will be reassessed after ten years.
    • Foods that are formulated to meet the needs of specific populations, such as individual rations for military personnel use.
  • Technical exemptions
    • Foods that do not require a Nutrition Facts table. Examples include raw, single ingredient whole meats, poultry and fish, and foods sold at farmers’ markets.
    • Raw, single ingredient ground meats and poultry. While these products, unlike whole cuts of meat and poultry, have a Nutrition Facts table, they are of similar nutritional value as whole cuts.
    • Requiring a symbol on ground meats and poultry and not on whole cuts of meat may lead people in Canada to erroneously believe that all whole cuts are healthier than ground.
    • In certain cases these exemptions will be lost, such as if a claim is made. or if anything is added to the meat like salt, saturated fat or even spices.
    • Foods that are not sold directly to consumers and those in very small packages, such as coffee creamers in single-serving cups and mini chocolate bars.
  • Practical exemptions
    • Foods on which the nutrition symbol would be redundant, such as packages of sugar, honey, maple syrup, table and flavoured salt, butter and other fats and oils.

The new labelling is to be in place on the specified food items by January 1, 2026, although it is possible they will start to appear sooner on certain items.

 

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