Bakers Journal

Tricks of the Trade: March 2011

March 4, 2011

Labelling your products can be a great way to communicate with your customers. A good label may contain information about your product’s ingredients, nutritional information, or even claims of the nutritional or health benefits your product has to offer.

Labelling your products can be a great way to communicate with your customers. A good label may contain information about your product’s ingredients, nutritional information, or even claims of the nutritional or health benefits your product has to offer.

Before you decide if food labelling is right for your bakery, you should understand the rules and regulations Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) have established to inform consumers about what they’re eating, and to protect them from misleading advertising.

On its website, the CFIA states, “Canada’s nutrition labelling regulations have been designed to provide a system for conveying information about the nutrient content of food in a standardized format, which allows for comparison among foods at the point of purchase. Clear, uniform information should support consumers in making informed food choices toward healthy eating goals.”

To that end, Health Canada requires all pre-packaged products to carry a Nutrition Facts Table (NFT). The NFT table provides consumers with information about the amount of energy (measured in calories) contained in a food, as well as information about 13 core nutrients, and their levels as a percentage of the recommended daily value. This information must be provided based on an indicated serving size. It must also be presented in the manner outlined by Health Canada in the Nutrition Labelling Regulations.

Foods prepared or processed in-store, including bakery items, are not required to have a Nutrition Facts Table.

Health Canada allows for three types of claims on a food product. For all three claims, words with no explicit meaning or those that convey partial truths when describing a food should be avoided. The idea is to limit the use of language that can leave consumers with false or misleading impressions about a food or the effects of consuming it.

The CFIA defines a food claim as a statement about the composition, quality or quantity of a food product. Statements about the origin of a food are also classed as food claims. Statements such as “no preservatives,” “no preservatives added,” or “contains no preservatives” fall into this category, as do statements such as “no MSG added” and “contains no MSG.”

Of particular interest to bakers are the rules around the word “homemade.” The CFIA’s website states, “The term ‘homemade’ describes a food that is not commercially prepared. ‘Homemade’ foods do not require further preparation.” Moreover, the website reads, “The use of a brand name or trademark symbol in conjunction with the term ‘homemade’ is considered misleading if the food is prepared commercially.” The federal department considers the term “homemade” misleading if a food is prepared in a commercial establishment, and this includes small, artisan establishments. In such cases, terms like “homemade style,” “home-style” and “like homemade” should be used.

The second type of claim the regulations allow for are health claims. Health Canada defines a health claim as: “any representation in labelling or advertising that states, suggests, or implies that a relationship exists between consumption of a food, or an ingredient in the food, and health,” whether those claims are “stated explicity with words, or implied through symbols, graphics, logos or other means, such as a name, trademark, or seal of approval.”

Last but not least are nutrient content claims. These types of claims either explicitly state or otherwise express to a consumer, the quantity of a nutrient that can be found in a food. Bakers should be aware that if they make this type of claim about a product, they must also include a Nutrition Facts Table with that product. A nutrient content claim voids the exemption that allows foods prepared in-store to be sold without the NFT.

If you want to do any specific promotions of your products, you should also be aware of the rules that govern advertising. Generally speaking, mandatory information, as well as any claims that are acceptable on a food label, can also be used to advertise food. Information that is not acceptable on a food label is typically also not acceptable in advertising. As such, the CFIA recommends ensuring any labels on your products are compliant with the rules and regulations before developing advertising materials.

Last but not least, if you want to draw comparisons between one of your products and a similar food product, you must ensure that you provide a complete comparison, and that the foods are similar in character, composition, and any other factors that are relevant to comparing the two.

Food labels can be a great way to inform customers about your products. They can allow you to communicate the nutritional benefits of your products, as well as any health benefits they may have. However, there are strict rules governing the food labels, and you may be asked for evidence substantiating any claims you make about your products. Ultimately, food labels are a tool that may be more useful for some businesses than for others. It’s up to you to decide whether or not labelling is right for your business.

Mario Fortin is an international bakery consultant and owner of FORMA-LAB, a consulting service to bakers and suppliers. If you have a technical problem, send your questions to

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