Centre for Science in the Public Interest

For the Record

For Immediate Release:
October 19, 2000

For more information:
Bill Jeffery

   New Nutrition Label Proposal Applauded by Consumer Group
OTTAWA (October 19, 2000) — The Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) congratulated Health Canada today for proposing to require food manufacturers to list full nutrition information on practically all packaged foods.

     The Health Canada proposal would require that the amounts of calories, fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, fibre, sugar, and other nutrients be listed per standardized serving and also disclosed as a percentage of the recommended daily intake of the nutrient. All label information would continue to be required in both official languages. Special rules will apply to small packages and exemptions will be given to small businesses.

     “Mandatory nutrition labelling will help consumers improve their diets and reduce their risks of heart disease and other diet-related diseases,” stated Bill Jeffery, National Coordinator for the Centre for Science in the Public Interest.

     “This is a major victory for consumers. Nutrition labelling had broad support from consumers, public health experts and legislators, but we really needed a commitment from the Health Canada. This is it.” said Jeffery.

     Health Canada announced that the proposed regulatory amendments will be available for public comment in the coming months and will be in force sometime in 2001. Manufacturers will have two years to comply with the new disclosure rules. Currently, nutrition labelling is voluntary unless a manufacturer makes a nutrition claim. Even then, only limited information must be disclosed and information is often provided based on non-standard serving sizes.

     “A CSPI-led coalition has been urging Health Canada and all five parties in the House of Commons to support mandatory nutrition labelling for more than three years,” Jeffery said. Last December, 103 MPs from all five federal political parties signed a petition to fast track a mandatory nutrition labelling bill sponsored by Liberal MP Tom Wappel and jointly seconded by the Canadian Alliance Deputy Health Critic Reed Elly, NDP Health Critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis, NDP Industry Critic Nelson Riis, and Svend Robinson. The legislation was supported by the Alliance for Food Labelling Reform, a coalition of 17 non-profit health and consumer groups organized by CSPI. The Alliance for Food Label Reform represents two million Canadian consumers, scientists, physicians, nutritionists, and other health professionals.

     “We are disappointed that fresh meat packaged in stores — a major source of saturated fat — may be exempted from these requirements, and that a specific daily value for refined sugars has not been established, but we will take these and other details up with Health Canada in the coming weeks.” said Jeffery.

     “With rumours of a fall election, we recall the last time the federal government proposed mandatory nutrition labelling, in 1978. The Minister of Health and Welfare made promises, but the program got derailed by an election and the proposal didn’t resurface for two decades. We intend to see it through this time,” said Jeffery.

     “This announcement underscores the government’s recognition of the importance of food policy for advancing public health. We hope that food policy issues play a significant role in the upcoming federal election,” Jeffery added.

CSPI Canada