Nutrition Labelling:
A Call for Reform

Centre for Science in the Public Interest
(Published in May 1997)
Supported by:
The Council of Canadians, FoodShare Metro Toronto, Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health, National Federation of Consumers’ Associations of Quebec, Toronto Food Policy Council

Executive Summary

Canada’s current nutrition labelling regulations and guidelines are inadequate and should be improved. Since nutrition labelling is not mandatory, many food labels do not provide any nutrition information. As a result, the nutrient content of many foods cannot be determined. The lack of information makes it difficult for Canadians to select foods in accordance with the dietary advice of health authorities. Interestingly, many products that do not provide any nutrition information when sold in Canada are simultaneously sold in the U.S. in packages that provide extensive nutrition information.

Although some foods do provide nutrition information, that information is often limited, difficult to read, or based on serving sizes that vary significantly within food categories, making brand comparisons difficult. Moreover, nutrition information is not expressed in ways that enable consumers to determine how the quantities of nutrients listed on a label fit into a healthful daily diet.

To address those problems, the following general reforms are proposed:

  • All food labels should be required to provide, in both French and English the content of all important nutrients for which health authorities have made recommendations.

  • Nutrition information should be easy for consumers to read and locate on the label.

  • Nutrition information should be based on serving sizes that are standardized within food categories so that consumers can easily compare different products.

  • Nutrition information should be provided in a way that enables consumers to determine how a typical serving of the food fits into a healthful daily diet.

  • Mandatory nutrition labelling that meets those criteria is essential to enable Canadians to improve their diet and long-term health.
[Read the entire report]