Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act (Canada )

The primary law regulating the packaging and labelling of prepackaged consumer goods in Canada is the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act (Canada) (“CPLA”), which is administered by Canada’s Competition Bureau. Both food and non-food products are covered under the CPLA; however, “devices” and “drugs” (as defined under the Food and Drugs Act (Canada)) are not.

The CPLA applies to “dealers” who are defined as retailers, manufacturers, processors or producers of products, or any person who is engaged in the business of importing, packing or selling any product. The CPLA prohibits dealers from selling, advertising or importing into Canada any prepackaged product unless a label containing prescribed information is affixed to the product and it does not contain any false or misleading representation relating to that product.

Mandatory Label Requirements

Generally, a label must set out the following:

  • the common name of the product;
  • the net quantity of the product; and
  • the dealer’s name and principal place of business or manufacture.

The first two requirements must be set out in both English and French.

Additional information may be required by the CPLA or regulations thereunder. Such information must also be set out in both English and French (e.g., a geographic origin claim on a label).

Regulations prescribe the manner in which information must be set out on a label, including the location of the information and the height size of the letters.

Charter of the French Language (Québec)

If a product is intended to be distributed in the Province of Québec, the Charter of the French Language (Québec) (“Charter”) requires that every inscription on the product, on its container, on its wrapping, or on a document or object supplied with it must be drafted in French. The French inscription may be accompanied by an inscription in another language (such as English), but no inscription in that language may be given greater prominence than that in French. The Charter also provides specific requirements in respect of specific products, such as toys and games, computer software, cultural and educational products.

An inscription on a product may be exclusively in a language other than French (e.g. in English only) in a number of cases, including if the inscription is a trade mark registered in Canada (unless a French version has also been registered). Inscriptions on products originating from outside Québec may also be in a language other than French under very specific conditions. For instance, if the inscription is engraved, baked or inlaid in the product itself, riveted or welded to it or embossed on it, in a permanent manner, provided the inscription does not pertain to safety.

Other Legislation

Legislation imposing packaging and labelling requirements also exists for specific goods. For example, the Food and Drugs Act (Canada) for food, drugs and cosmetics; the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (Canada) for a broad range of consumer products including carpets, cribs, strollers, toys and lighters; the Textile Labelling Act (Canada) for textile fibre products; and the Tobacco Act (Canada) for tobacco products.

Other legislation to keep in mind includes the Competition Act (Canada) with respect to misleading advertising claims and deceptive marketing practices, and the Marking of Imported Goods Regulations with respect to indicating the country of origin of goods. Exemptions may exist from certain packaging and labelling requirements; however, these must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.