Canada will require companies to add nutritional warnings to the front of prepackaged foods that are high in saturated fat, sugar or sodium to help shoppers make healthier choices at a glance.
But ground beef will be exempt from labeling after groups of ranchers objected to Health Canada’s proposal earlier this month.
The government says the labels are meant to help Canadians eat healthier, as so-called “nutrients of public health interest” have been linked to conditions like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
“These rules are designed to make it easier for us to make informed and healthier choices,” said Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos.
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Health Canada said the new labels will complement, rather than replace, the more detailed nutritional information typically found on the back of food packaging.
Typically, they will be placed on pre-packaged foods that contain more than 15 percent of the recommended daily allowance for saturated fat, sugars, or sodium. For prepackaged meals, warnings will only apply to foods that contain more than 30% of the recommended daily allowance.
Minced meat exempt from warning
The proposed labels were at the center of controversy earlier this month when a group of ranchers opposed the government’s plan to put warnings on ground meat.
The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association said at the time that the policy would “denigrate” minced meat and make people think it was a less healthy choice than whole cuts.
Now Health Canada has exempted minced meat from warning labels, even if it’s high in fat or salt. The product was considered healthy despite “nutrients of concern”, along with milk, many cheeses, and fruits.
Bags of sugar and salt will also be exempt from the tax, as the government has said labeling such products would be redundant.
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Questions and answers
Ground beef shouldn’t have a warning label, Canadian ranchers say.
The rules are due to come into effect in early 2026, which the government says gives companies enough time to manage the cost of adjusting their packaging.
Health Canada will also limit the size of “voluntary health-related information” such as labels that state a product is high in fiber.