The Government of Canada announced in its 2014 federal budget that it intends to modernize the compositional standards for beer under the Food and Drug Regulations. Recognizing that certain provisions in the Food and Drug Regulations are not maximizing the potential for growth and innovation in the beer industry, the government will be updating these compositional standards to account for new styles of craft beer in the market.


Under the existing compositional standards, a narrow list of permitted ingredients for standardized alcoholic beverages like beer, ale, stout and porter is set out in sections B.02.130 and B.02.131 of the Food and Drug Regulations. This includes many of the ingredients traditionally used in the production of beer, such as malt barley, wheat, hops and water. While beer and similar beverages satisfying these requirements do not need to list their ingredients on the label, those that do not conform to these requirements (i.e., by adding additional ingredients) must have a complete list of ingredients on the label in both English and French and contain declarations regarding the presence of any allergens.


Brewers have raised concerns that these existing compositional standards have been creating barriers to innovation by limiting the ability for brewers to develop new and unique beer products. One example referenced by the government is the difficulty that Rickard’s faced in getting its Cardigan Seasonal Spiced Lager labelled as “beer” due to the addition of nutmeg, which is not a permitted ingredient under the current compositional standards. Similarly, the Pump House Brewing Ltd. faced delays when launching its new Blueberry Ale because the existing labelling standards would not permit both names to be placed on the label.


While the contents of the proposed new regulations have not yet been released, they are expected to provide a number of clarifications that will broaden the existing compositional standard for beer and create greater flexibility when labelling beer products. The government hopes that these coming changes will encourage creativity and innovation in the development of new and unique beer products that can address evolving consumer tastes. Given that the beer industry generates approximately C$14 billion in economic activity each year (or, put another way, 0.9 per cent of Canadian GDP) and accounts for 163,200 Canadian jobs, encouraging creativity and innovation in the industry has been identified by the government as an important goal and one we will continue to monitor.