On May 21, 2008 the Canadian government unveiled the new Canadian Food Labelling Initiative. The Initiative included a plan to update the guidelines for the use of “Product of Canada” and “Made in Canada” claims on food labels and advertising. The Canada Food and Drugs Act and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, which are administered (in part) by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), provide that claims on food labelling, packaging and advertising must be truthful, clear, simple, transparent and not misleading. CFIA guidelines provide direction on the proper use of Canadian content claims. The current guidelines, which have been in place since the early 1980s, require that two basic criteria be met for a food manufacturer to use “Made in Canada” or “Product of Canada” claims for food products:

  1. The last substantial transformation of the goods must have occurred in Canada, and; 
  2. At least 51 per cent of the total direct costs of producing or manufacturing the goods are Canadian.

The new guidelines will be implemented in response to government consultations with Canadians that revealed a growing sentiment that the current guidelines have resulted in labels that do not reflect the true origins of the food products being sold in stores.

Product of Canada

Under the proposed guidelines, the term “Product of Canada” should focus on the contents and ingredients of a product. When the label claim “Product of Canada” is applied, “all or virtually all” of the significant ingredients, components, processing and labour used to make the product must be Canadian. These products must contain very little or no foreign content, with the exception of minor food additives, spices, minerals, vitamins and flavouring preparations.

Made in Canada

A product may be labelled “Made in Canada” if it is manufactured or processed in Canada, regardless of whether the ingredients are imported or domestic, as long as the last substantial transformation of the product occurred in Canada. However, such a claim must be accompanied by a qualifying statement. Foods containing ingredients sourced outside of Canada should state, “Made in Canada from imported ingredients,” while foods containing both domestic and imported ingredients should state, “Made in Canada from domestic and imported ingredients.” This provision is meant to allow consumers to identify when they are supporting Canadian jobs and the Canadian economy. It also recognizes the importance of the value added to food products by the inclusion of Canadian ingredients and processing.

Other Claims

Some food products that do not specifically meet the “Product of Canada” or “Made in Canada” labelling criteria may continue to use other qualified claims to be recognized as Canadian-made. Other more specific statements or claims, including “Processed in Canada,” “Packaged in Canada,” “Refined in Canada” and “Distilled in Canada” are encouraged, provided they are truthful and not misleading. However, “Product of Canada” and “Made in Canada” should be used for those products that meet the guidelines.

The new guidelines are scheduled to come into effect on December 31, 2008. The CFIA will monitor compliance with and enforcement of the guidelines. The new measures will increase the onus on food producers to ensure that labelling and advertising accurately represent the origin of their products.