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LABELING

Considerations for Alcohol Labeling In Canada

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Highlights

  • Recent Statistics on Alcohol Consumption in Canada
  • Mandatory Common Names
  • New Regulations for Allergens, Labeling, and More

Recent statistics show that 21 million Canadians reported consuming alcoholic beverages at least once in the previous 30 days. With such many consumers, manufacturers must comply with mandatory labeling requirements.  

Alcoholic beverages are subject to labeling requirements under the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR), as well as specific requirements under the Safe Foods for Canadians Act (SFCA) and the Safe Foods for Canadians Regulations (SFCR). Dependent on the type of alcoholic beverage, other federal acts or regulations may apply, such as the Spirit Drinks Trade Act. Provincial regulations may also apply depending on the province or territory of sale.

Common Name

Many alcoholic beverages have a standard of identity prescribed in Division 2 of the FDR. A standard of identity outlines the ingredients, production method, and characteristics for common alcoholic beverages. Whisky, gin, vodka, tequila, and wine are examples of alcoholic beverages with prescribed compositional standards. If applicable, these terms must describe the product on the label when sold in Canada.

Today, we see a rise in several new alcoholic beverages in liquor stores where standardized names are unavailable. These may include canned flavored vodka beverages or spiked ice teas. Generic terms such as “Alcoholic beverage” or “Alcoholic malt beverage” may describe these products when a prescribed standard is unavailable. The common name must accurately describe the name of which the alcoholic beverage is commonly known.

Alcohol by Volume Declaration

All alcoholic beverages containing 1.1% or more alcohol by volume must declare the percentage by volume of alcohol contained in the product. This must be displayed in English and French on the label's principal display panel.

List of Ingredients

Standardized alcoholic beverages, such as wine, rum, or gin, are exempt from the requirement to show a list of ingredients on the label. However, to provide consumer transparency, unstandardized alcoholic beverages, such as a pre-mixed canned cocktail, must show a list of ingredients on the label. Ingredients must be declared by their common name, in descending order of proportion by the product formula's weight.

Allergens

Food allergens in Canada include eggs, milk, mustard, peanuts, crustaceans and mollusks, fish, sesame, soy, tree nuts, and wheat. Any added allergens, gluten sources, or sulfites at a level greater than ten ppm must be declared on the label when present in alcoholic beverages. This requirement applies to standardized alcoholic beverages, even though they are exempt from declaring a list of ingredients.

Beer is no longer exempt from declaring allergens, gluten sources, and added sulfites manufacturers must comply with the new requirements by December 13, 2022. All beer sold in Canada containing added allergens, gluten sources, and sulfites must declare so on the label.

Nutrition Labeling

Beverages with an alcoholic content of more than 0.5% are exempt from carrying a Nutrition Facts table. However, the exemption is lost when there is a nutrient content claim on the label (e.g.1, g of sugar per 250 mL) or when an unstandardized alcoholic beverage contains added sweeteners.

Alcoholic beverages that contain aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame-potassium or neotame must comply with labeling requirements for these artificial sweeteners.

Name and Principal Place of Business

Manufacturers must declare the company name and location on alcoholic beverage labels. Although not required, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) encourages the industry to provide a complete mailing address for consumer communication. 

Legibility Requirements

Mandatory labeling information must be clearly and prominently shown and readily legible to consumers on the label. The sizing of certain labeling elements, such as the net quantity declaration, depends on the principal display area. Furthermore, the FDR prescribes specific format and technical requirements for the Nutrition Facts table, dependent on the available display surface of the label. Additional legibility requirements may apply depending on the type of alcoholic beverage.

What Can Mérieux NutriSciences Do for You?

Our Regulatory Compliance team offers full-service label reviews to ensure compliant alcoholic beverage labels. Contact us today to start your label review.

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