The legal requirements for food packaging are vast and detailed. Whether you’re an entrepreneur introducing a single product to market in Canada or an international brand delivering a new food product to Canada, you need to be aware of the legal requirements for food packaging.
There is no list of acceptable food packaging. However, there is a list of acceptable polymers, additives, and chemicals permitted for use in food packaging. It is clear in the law that the party responsible for compliance with legal requirements is the food seller, aka the manufacturer, packager, and/or distributor. It is up to these parties to ensure packaging’s safe for the foods that they contain.
Here is a detailed guide about the legal requirements for food packaging:
Food packaging information
There is a requirement for any information on food packaging to be accurate, truthful, and not misleading. In terms of legal requirements for submission for approval to food and health authorities, there aren’t any requirements for pre-market clearance of food packaging materials. That said, someone can submit their information voluntarily.
For foods like infant formula, foods for special dietary use, and novel foods, there is specific information which has to be submitted to health authorities relating to the packaging. This is to confirm that the packaging does not pose a danger to consumers.
Food packaging safety
Most of the legal requirements for food packaging are based around safety for the consumer above all else. Accordingly, any allergens in your ingredient list must be clearly labelled. Furthermore, if the food product is prepared in the same facility as an allergen where trace amounts are possible, this must also be outlined.
A brand must demonstrate the packaging they use is not transferring harmful chemicals to the foods they are protecting. This applies to any packaging that comes in contact with the food product, i.e. laminated film, containers, or formulated products.
Your food packaging can be evaluated and put to safety testing at any time by authorities. Chemical composition, intended use, and other details may be evaluated at that time.
Food packaging accuracy
What’s inside your packaging must be clearly labelled with the common name of the food product on the outside. Furthermore, the net quantity of the food product in the package also should be identified.
There are some very specific marketing legal regulations and requirements for food packaging which vary depending on the product. Ultimately, what’s being said must be truthful. Any claim that gives a false impression should be avoided. All advertising is subject to review by their respective food and/or alcoholic beverage authorities.
There are additional legal requirements and regulations that relate to certain claims made on food packaging. If terms like organic, kosher, or halal are used, there may be more legal requirements to consider.
Food packaging labelling
Unless a food product is exempted, multi-ingredient foods are required to have an ingredient list included on the packaging. Furthermore, unless otherwise exempted in Canada, the list of ingredients must be stated in both English and French. All ingredients must be listed in their decreasing order of proportion.
There are several food types exempt from legally required food packaging labels. They include fresh fruits and vegetables, raw meat and poultry, raw seafood, and foods that are in-store prepared (such as salads and bakery items). Also on the list are limited-ingredient alcoholic beverages, coffee, and tea.
Food packaging data
Unless exempted, food packaging must contain a ‘nutrition facts table’ with a declaration of nutrients, including fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrate, fibre, sugars, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron.
Similarly, food packaging must be dated with when a food has been placed into its package. An expiry date is also legally required, under the guidance that when a product expires it becomes no longer fit for consumption.
If the product comes from outside of the country, its geography must be indicated. From fresh fruits and vegetables to packaged goods, a lot of food is imported. The country where a food product’s clear on the label or packaging helps the average consumer to know what they’re buying.
Food packaging instructions
Storage instructions are a necessity on food packaging. This is typically a few lines on how a product’s best stored. This may also include information on temperature, humidity, and light conditions.
For further instructions, some contact information is legally required for food packaging. The name and address of the manufacturer or distributor is needed. This information shares how to contact you in case something is wrong with the product or the customer has a comment.