What’s in a label – What You Should Know About Canada’s New Food Labelling Changes

Are you ready for a change? If you are, you hopefully don’t mind a slow and steady change. Over the next five years, the food industry will be changing their food labels in accordance with Health Canada’s regulations. You may start seeing changes this year, as some food companies begin implementing their updated packaging. Since understanding food labels is often a confusing aspect of nutrition, I’d like to give you some background info on these upcoming changes that will help you be a nutritionally savvy consumer. In December 2016, Health Canada announced the updated Nutrition Facts Table and food labelling regulations. These changes are part of Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy, which aims to “help make the healthier choice the easier choice for Canadians.” Amongst the strategy initiatives is the goal of strengthening labelling and claims. Learn more at: http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/healthy-canada-vision-canada-en-sante/healthy-eating-strategy-strategie-pour-saine-alimentation-eng.php Since this article is not an exhaustive list of all of the changes being made, I have highlighted key points that are important for understanding the new labels. My intention is to help you be a more mindful and informed shopper.
  1. Nutrition Facts Table:
  • The serving sizes will be more consistent and realistic, meaning you can easily compare similar food products and serving sizes will be more reflective of what Canadians eat in one sitting.
  • The % daily values will be revised based on updated science.
  • A new % daily value will be added for total sugars (more on this point later on).
  • Potassium will be added to the list of micronutrients.
  • The micronutrients Vitamin A and Vitamin C will be removed.
  • Amounts of potassium, calcium and iron will be shown in milligrams (mg) rather than just as percentages (%).
  • A footnote about % daily value will be added at the bottom of the Nutrition Facts Table where 5% or less will be considered “a little” of your daily intake and 15% or more will constitute “a lot.”
  1. Ingredients List
I would like to note that I believe the Ingredients List is the most important part of a food package. I’d advise you to read the Ingredients List first before looking at the Nutrition Facts Table. Understanding which ingredients comprise the food you consume is a crucial step towards healthy eating. Changes:
  • Sugar-based ingredients will be grouped in brackets after the name “Sugars,” for example: Sugars (brown sugar, honey, fancy molasses). This is intended to help identify how many added sugars are in the food product.
  • Food colours will be listed by their individual common names, which is helpful for food allergies/sensitivities.
  • The text, font, height, size, colour and layout will be revised so it is easier to read.
  1. Sugars
As mentioned earlier, the new Nutrition Facts Table will provide a % daily value for sugars (previously, sugars were just labelled in grams). Many dietitians feel that this is an arbitrary point to include. The reason is that the percentage values on these labels are based on the recommended daily values of macro or micronutrients that should be consumed in a day. There is no such value for total combined sugars. This value would be helpful if the new Canadian food labels separated added sugars (which do have upper limits in a day) from naturally occurring sugars. However, our new labels combine these two types of sugars. So, be mindful of these sugar values, as they can be misleading. Knowledge is power, particularly when it comes to understanding what you eat. I recommend you read more about the updates and changes: http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/eating-nutrition/label-etiquetage/changes-modifications-eng.php

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