On September 17, 2018, Health Canada’s ban on partially hydrogenated oils (“PHOs”) came into effect. It is now illegal for manufacturers to add PHOs to foods sold in Canada. This includes domestically produced foods, imported foods, and foods produced in the food service industry.

What exactly are PHOs?

PHOs are defined as those fats and oils that; (a) have been hydrogenated, and (b) have an iodine value of greater than 4. In order for a fat or oil to be considered a PHO, it must meet both of these conditions. This definition is consistent with the definition established by the United States Food and Drug Administration.

Scope of the prohibition

PHOs have been added to Part 1 of the List of Contaminants and other Adulterating Substances in Foods. This means that all foods containing PHOs will now be declared to be adulterated and prohibited for sale in Canada in accordance with section 4 of the Food and Drugs Act.

Enforcement

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for the enforcement of the Food and Drugs Act. In order to verify whether industry practices now comply with the new regulatory scheme, the CFIA will conduct various oversight activities, such as inspections, audits and/or sampling of products.

Phase in period

Due to the potentially long shelf life of food products containing PHOs, the CFIA is instituting a two-year phase in period during which foods containing PHOs that were produced before September 17, 2018 may continue to be sold. From September 17, 2020, any remaining food products containing PHOs will need to be removed from sale, regardless of when they were manufactured.