Introduction to Canada’s Labeling Requirements

This article is an overview of the packaging and labeling requirements for prepackaged, non‑food consumer products sold in Canada, which are regulated by the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act.

We’re going to look at the laws governing the placement of labels on products, the mandatory information required on product labels, and the best practices for preventing misleading labeling in order to conform with Canada’s consumer welfare and product safety standards.

What are the Different Labels and Related Terms?

Canada’s Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations define a label as: “any label, mark, sign, device, imprint, stamp, brand, ticket or tag”.

What Information is Required on Canadian Product Labels?

Bilingual Labeling Requirements

All labels for products sold in Canada must be clearly printed in English and French. If the quantity is declared using numbers only, then numbers and metric symbols are considered bilingual.

Minimum mandatory labeling requirements for all types of product are as follows:

  • Product Identity: common or generic name, or definition of product function.
  • Net Quantity: displayed in metric units of volume for liquids and gases, or weight for solids.
  • Dealer Details: name and principal place of business of the retailer, manufacturer, processor, producer or importer of the product. The dealer's name and address may appear in either language.

There are various exceptions to the bilingual labeling requirements under Canada’s Official Languages Act relating to local products, specialty products, and test market products.

However, dealers importing products with labels that do not contain both English and French may be required to apply additional labels providing product information in both languages.

What are the Typeface Requirements for Canadian Labeling?

There are no restrictions on the typeface (font) used for labeling, as long as the information is easily legible to the consumer.
However, certain size and height requirements do apply.

Minimum Type Height

Both upper and lower case letters can be used for labeling. If a combination of upper and lower case is used, the minimum height of the typeface of 1.6 mm (1/16 inch) refers to the lower case letters.

Typefaces on labels for larger containers or packaging must be proportionally larger than the minimum type height requirements.
See the table below:

Area of Principal Display Surface Minimum Type Height
Not more than 32 cm2 (5 in2) 1.6 mm (1/16 in)
More than 32 cm2 (5 in2) but not more than 258 cm2 (40 in2) 3.2 mm (1/8 in)
More than 258 cm2 (40 in2) but not more than 645 cm2 (100 in2) 6.4 mm (1/4 in)
More than 645 cm2 (100 in2) but not more than 25.8 dm2 (400 in2) 9.5 mm (3/8 in)
More than 25.8 dm2 (400 in2) 12.7 mm (1/2 in)
Exceptions for small containers

In certain cases, where the container has a small principal display surface of 10 square centimeters (1.55 square inches) or less, the minimum type height may be reduced to 0.8 mm (1/32 inch).

What are the Different Types of Labels?

Canadian product labels are separated into three categories: Prepackaged Products; Principal Display Panel; and Principal Display Surface.

Prepackaged Products

The term "prepackaged product" means any product that is packaged in a container in such a manner that it is ordinarily sold to or used or purchased by a consumer without being re‑packaged.

Principal Display Surface

Containers

This is the total area of the side or surface of the product’s container that is made visible for the customer. If the container has a visible lid, the lid is also considered part of the display surface.

If the product’s container is not is a uniform shape, then the visible display surface must be 40% of the total visible surface area of the container, excluding the top and bottom.

Bags

If the product’s container is a bag with equal dimensions, then only one side of the bag needs to be used as the display surface. If the sides of the bag have different dimensions, the larger side is used as the display surface.

Wrappers

The display surface for wrappers is the total area of one visible side of the wrapper. The same applies to tickets or tags attached to product containers. For confining bands that are narrower than the size of the product contained, the entire visible side of the band is considered the display surface.

Principal Display Panel

This is the label that appears on the principal display surface of a product’s container.

When the product is in a container that’s mounted on a display card, the principal display panel is the label on the visible side of the container (principal display surface).

If the container is ornamental, the label may be on the bottom of the container or on a tag attached to the container.

Avoiding False and Misleading Representations

The Canadian Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act includes strict, far-reaching regulations to ensure that products aren’t incorrectly labeled in a way that could make customers believe the product does or does not contain certain ingredients.

Section 7 of the Act states that “all information on a package, whether in symbols or words, must be neither false nor misleading to the consumer”.

The Act also includes strict guidelines covering the information on labels referring to the net quantity and weight of packaged products, so it’s crucial that dealers ensure their labeling is accurate in both English and French languages.


Net Quantity Representations

Measurement Types

Depending on the type of product, the appropriate measurement must be used for the net quantity. These measurements are: volume; weight; length; area; and cubic.

Any labeling which gives the impression that a package contains more product than is actually contained in it may be a violation of this section. This also applies to any pictorial representations on product labels as well as qualifying statements such as ‘family sized’.

Net Quantity Declaration

The accuracy requirements for net quantity determination are regulated by the Competition Bureau, Industry Canada, which stipulates that the actual contents of packages must not be less, on average, than the declared net quantity.


Labeling Requirements for Substances Included or Not Included in Products

The labeling of prepackaged products must be clear about the substances contained in products which may affect the health and safety of customers, such as irritants and hazardous chemicals.

Product labels must also not make claims that the product contains substances that are not actually included, otherwise the label could be found to be misleading.


Requirements of Other Claims on Labeling

Any other claims and descriptions on the labeling about the product must be accurate, including the type of product, quality, performance, function, origin, or method of manufacture. Examples of these claims include “New”; “Made in Canada”; “Hand made”; “Biodegradable”, etc.

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Whatever your product, QIMA will ensure your packaging and labels meet all the legal requirements for customer health and safety regulations in Canada and other countries.

Avoid the risk of making misleading representations on your labeling by using product testing and evaluations to meet all labeling requirements unique to your product type.

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