Health Minister Petitpas Taylor rolls out new food warning labels

Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor rolled out proposals this Friday for new warning labels for foods high in saturated fat, sugar or sodium — proposals that exempt some products, including milk.

The proposed new labels are meant to encourage consumers to avoid binging on foods linked to chronic health problems like obesity and high blood pressure.

Products are to be labelled according to the amount of sugar, sodium or saturated fat per serving. Any product that includes more than 15 per cent of the daily recommended intake of each ingredient per serving will get a label.

Despite being high in certain saturated fats, two per cent and whole milk will be exempt from the labels because of their proven nutritional benefits.

Other products, such as sweetening agents, will be exempt from labelling, along with raw fruits, vegetables and meat.

Food processors and manufacturers will be required to display the labels on the front of packages, near the top.

The government also announced other food-related measures Friday:

.It plans to increase the required amount of Vitamin D added to milk and margarine.

.It will no longer require warning labels for the presence of partially hydrogenated oils, since their use was banned in September.

. And it’s repealing requirements for extra warning labels for four high-intensity sweeteners: aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame-potassium and neotame.

The regulations will come into effect later this year, but manufacturers will have until 2022 to comply with them — either by adding the labels or by lowering the sugar, sodium or saturated fat content in the products.

Health Canada has not settled on how the labels will look on the packaging, and showed off four proposed designs on Friday.

Some of those proposed designs include icons: a magnifying glass to encourage consumers to look closely at the product’s contents, or an exclamation point indicating a high sugar, sodium or saturated fat content. Other options merely warn of “high levels” of those ingredients, in red or black type.

The department will launch public consultations shortly and conduct consumer research later this year to settle on which label design to use.

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