Highlights

  • Recent Statistics on Alcohol Consumption in Canada
  • Mandatory Common Names
  • New Regulations for Allergens, Labeling, and More

Recent statistics show that 21 million Canadians reported consuming alcoholic beverages at least once in the previous 30 days. With such a high number of consumers, it is imperative for manufacturers to comply with mandatory labeling requirements.  

Alcoholic beverages are subject to labeling requirements under the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR), as well as specific requirements under the Safe Foods for Canadians Act (SFCA) and the Safe Foods for Canadians Regulations (SFCR). Dependent on the type of alcoholic beverage, other federal acts or regulations may apply, such as the Spirit Drinks Trade Act. Provincial regulations may also apply depending on the province or territory of sale.

Common Name

Many alcoholic beverages have a standard of identity prescribed in Division 2 of the FDR. A standard of identity outlines the ingredients, method of production and characteristics for common alcoholic beverages. Whisky, gin, vodka, tequila, and wine are examples of alcoholic beverages which have compositional standards prescribed. If applicable, these terms must be used to describe the product on the label when sold in Canada.

Today, we are seeing a rise in several new alcoholic beverages in liquor stores where standardized names are not available. These may include canned flavored vodka beverages or spiked ice teas. Generic terms such as “Alcoholic beverage” or “Alcoholic malt beverage” may be used to describe these products, when a prescribed standard is not available. The common name must accurately describe the name of which the alcoholic beverage is commonly known.

Alcohol by Volume Declaration

All alcoholic beverages containing 1.1% or more alcohol by volume must declare the percentage by volume of alcohol contained in the product. This must be displayed on the principal display panel of the label, in both English and French.

With beer, the FDR establishes mandatory common names based upon alcohol content, as outlined below.

List of Ingredients

Standardized alcoholic beverages, such as wine, rum or gin, are exempt from the requirement to show a list of ingredients on the label. However, to provide consumer transparency, unstandardized alcoholic beverages, such as a pre-mixed canned cocktail, are required to show a list of ingredients on the label. Ingredients must be declared by their common name, in descending order of their proportion by weight of the product formula.

Allergens

Food allergens in Canada include eggs, milk, mustard, peanuts, crustaceans and mollusks, fish, sesame, soy, tree nuts, and wheat. Any added allergens, gluten sources, or sulphites at a level greater than 10ppm must be declared on the label when present in alcoholic beverages. This requirement applies to standardized alcoholic beverages, even though they are exempt from declaring a list of ingredients.

Beer is no longer exempt from declaring allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites manufacturers must comply with the new requirements by December 13, 2022. All beer sold in Canada containing added allergens, gluten sources, and sulphites must declare so on the label.

Nutrition Labeling

Beverages with an alcoholic content of more than 0.5% are exempt from carrying a Nutrition Facts table. However, the exemption is lost when there is a nutrient content claim on the label (e.g.1 g of sugar per 250 mL) or when an unstandardized alcoholic beverage contains added sweeteners.

Alcoholic beverages that contain aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame-potassium or neotame must comply with labeling requirements for these artificial sweeteners.

Name and Principal Place of Business

Manufacturers must declare the company name and location on alcoholic beverage labels. Although not required, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) encourages industry to provide a complete mailing address to allow for consumer communication. 

Legibility Requirements

Mandatory labeling information must be clearly and prominently shown and readily legible to consumers on the label. The sizing of certain labeling elements, such as the net quantity declaration, is dependent on the area of the principal display. Furthermore, the FDR prescribes specific format and technical requirements for the Nutrition Facts table, dependent on the available display surface of the label. Additional legibility requirements may apply depending on the type of alcoholic beverage.

What can Mérieux NutriSciences do for you?

Our Regulatory Compliance team offers full-service label reviews to ensure compliant alcoholic beverage labels. Contact us today to start your label review.

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