How To Be Ready for the Canadian Food Label Amendments

How To Be Ready for the Canadian Food Label Amendments

How To Be Ready for the Canadian Food Label Amendments



By now, everyone in the food industry is aware of Health Canada’s announcement regarding the food label amendments. They came into force December of last year, but they provide for a five-year transition period.


Let’s Do This Thing!

Calling all food manufacturers, importers, and brokers! Remember 2001, when Food and Drug Regulations introduced the requirement of most prepackaged foods to bear a nutrition facts table*? Well, nutrition fact tables aren’t going anywhere, but pay attention, there are a variety of amendments in store for the tables as well as for the ingredients listing.  Time again to buckle down and reassess your products’ food labels.

Now, how to tackle these changes? Strategy and execution are up to each food manufacturer.  And while five years may seem a robust amount of time to deal with this down the road, our graphic design division urges their clients to collaborate with their marketing team immediately.  [For tips and insights see The Freelance Portfolio’s fresh new blog post.]

At the very least, review a timeline so there isn’t the last minute panic.


Nitty Gritty Crunch Time

“I love deadlines.  I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”
– Douglas Adams

Ha ha very funny Mr. Adams, but we want to AVOID the “whooshing noise”! So how do we get ready? How does a food manufacturer prepare their labels in time?

I was boning up on the Government of Canada’s “healthy eating strategy”, and all that the food label amendments entail.  Are there things that need doing right now? Can we put the whole thing off and get the job done just prior to the end of 2021? Or will we be kicking ourselves over some time-consuming issue we overlooked?

As is my nature, I skimmed through to find the detail that is most pressing to a co-packer: timeline! As a co-packer, Repack Canada is typically the “last line of defense” before a product hits retail and as such, we’ve almost found a way to bend time to achieve some of the turnarounds we have! (Well maybe not quite, but almost!)

That being said, food manufacturers will need to plan for a healthy amount of time to address the changes they need to make, and then prepare accordingly. Here is an example of what a chronology might look like on amending a food label:


A-Teaming It

If you were a TV nut in the ’80s like me, you may remember a famous line from a hokey action show called  “The A-Team”.  The fearless A-Team leader would frequently and smugly recite “I love it when a plan comes together.”*  Typically formulaic for network TV, this oddball team would encounter a problem, devise and carry out a plan and invariably succeed.

Hokey as it was, the A-Team understood that in order for them to beat the odds and come out on top, they first had to make a strategy. We want to succeed with our food label amendments, so let’s start with understanding the timeline and work together on how to make procrastination a non-issue.


Understanding the Deadline:

According to the Canadian Food Agency,

“Industry may follow the former requirements or the new requirements during the five-year transition period. At the end of the transition period on December 14, 2021, the new requirements must be applied.”**

 OK, there is our drop dead date.  Now let’s work through a timeline example for one SKU of product.


Step 1: Audit

Establish exactly what it is you need to amend on your food labels so that you meet all regulations as necessary.  Have your food labels audited by the CFIA or a third party.  Depending on when you submit directly to the CFIA, it could take days or weeks. The closer to the deadline, the higher the volume, the longer the wait.

CRUNCH TIME: For argument’s sake, let’s say 4 weeks.


Step 2: Puzzle Pieces

Once you’ve addressed the pieces of information that need amendments, organize the easy pieces and the pieces needing context, as you would with a jigsaw puzzle.  Some details may be quick and easy changes (such as using bullets or commas to separate ingredients). But others may take longer than expected and require research. Take, for example, the Nutrition Facts Table. There are a number of areas concerning the revision of percent daily values based on updated science. Is your lab analysis readily available? Or will you need some time accessing them from your archives?

[Side note — do not mix and match your puzzle pieces:

I am referring to the quote above from Health Canada’s “Notice to Industry” page; you can apply all new regulations to your labels right now, or you can wait and apply all of them sometime over the next 5 years, as long as you meet the December 16, 2021 deadline. But take note: you can not mix and match current regulations with the ones just announced in December. It’s one set of regulations or the other.***]

CRUNCH TIME: Fitting in with your other priorities, this could take you 2-4 weeks, or longer.


Step 3: Label/Package Artwork Files

Your Art Files should be easier to find than the X-Files. Provide artwork to the designer to apply required changes. If you have the artwork easily accessible, easy peasy! If you had the artwork created years ago and you have to dig back into your company or your agency’s archives, count on buffering for a week or so.

CRUNCH TIME: 5 – 8 days.


Step 4: Print

I cannot stress enough how important it is to meticulously proofread before going to print.  Once you are confident all amendments are made and applied correctly, hand over your print files.  High fives all around!

CRUNCH TIME: Depending on your printer and their lead times, allow 5-15 working days.



Don’t Be a Fool

To recap, then, a scenario like the above could add up to about 3 months.  And if you have multiple SKUs of product, do keep in mind they will add to the timeline.  Let’s say you start planning the summer of 2021, do you truly want to leave this for the eleventh hour, “what ifs” nagging in the back of your mind.    Do you have that much time to devote to the food label changes? Don’t make Mr. T “pity the fool” for not planning ahead.



A Final Word — Our Recommendation

Don’t let the 2021 deadline whoosh by you! Honestly, this is the perfect project to outsource to a reliable, experienced team confident in Health Canada’s regulations.  You can skip multiple steps and leave it in the hands of professionals who devote their time to making your food labels right.  If I were you, I would simply hit the EASY button:


Without hesitation Repack Canada recommends calling their graphic design division, The Freelance Portfolio right away.  Let’s make a plan and have your food label amendments come together!

It’s easy to reach us at Repack Canada or The Freelance Portfolio by any method you prefer — phone, email, or chat with us via PureChat from our website!

1-877-804-4841 | | 416-656-6227



by Eira Braun-Labossiere


*For tips and insights see The Freelance Portfolio’s fresh new blog post. (35 years of whatever-it-takes package design.)  

**Those not familiar with the “A-Team” tv series, visit YouTube and do a search for “i love it when a plan comes together hannibal”.

***From Government of Canada Canadian Food Inspection Agency website: “Notice to Industry – Regulatory amendments related to nutrition labelling, list of ingredient and food colours

Eira Braun-Labossiere

Eira’s seemingly unpronounceable and usually misspelled name creates excellent conversation opportunities. A content crafter for Repack Canada and The Freelance Portfolio, you can reach her via email ( or the good old telephone (1.877.804.4841). Contact me with any questions or to request a quote.