Canada will require that companies add nutrition warnings to the front of pre-packaged food with high levels of saturated fat, sugar or sodium in an effort to help grocery shoppers make healthier choices with just a glance.
But ground meat will be exempt from the labels, after ranchers groups objected to Health Canada’s proposal earlier this month.
The government says the labels are meant to help Canadians eat healthier, as the so-called “nutrients of public health concern” have been linked to conditions such as cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.
“These regulations are designed to make it easier for us to make informed, healthier choices,” said Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos.
Health Canada said the new labels will complement, rather than replace, the more detailed nutrition information that’s typically on the back of food packaging.
In general, they’ll be placed on pre-packaged foods that contain more than 15 per cent of the suggested daily value of saturated fat, sugars or sodium. For pre-packaged meals, the warnings will only go on items with more than 30 per cent of the recommended daily intake.
Ground meat exempt from warning
The proposed labels were at the centre of controversy earlier this month when a group of ranchers opposed the government’s plan to include warnings on ground meat.
At the time, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association said the policy would “vilify” ground meat and make people think it’s a less healthy choice than whole cuts.
Now, Health Canada has exempted ground meat from the warning labels, even if it’s high in fat or salt. The product was deemed to have health benefits in spite of the “nutrients of concern,” along with milk, many cheeses and fruit.
“Canadian families rely on ground beef as a nutritious and affordable food staple and an important contributor to food security. We are pleased with Health Canada’s decision to omit ground beef from requiring a misleading warning label,” Canadian Cattlemen’s Association President Reg Schellenberg said in a written statement.
Packages of sugar and salt will also be exempt, as the government said including labels on such products would be redundant.
The rules are set to come into force at the beginning of 2026, which the government said gives companies ample time to manage the costs of adjusting their packaging.
Health Canada will also limit the size of “voluntary health-related information,” such as labels that proclaim an item high in fibre.