(a) In cases where the shelf life of a food product is expected to be more than 90 days, there is no general requirement to label such products with a “best before” or “packaged on” date. Of course, all other labelling requirements, e.g. ingredient listing, common name, et cetera, apply unless exceptions are noted.
(b) As noted above, there is no general requirement to label products with a shelf life expected to be more than 90 days with a “best before” or “packaged on” date.
However, there are two types of products that may have a shelf life of over 90 days for which a requirement for date of packaging or date of processing on the label applies. These are “low-acid foods packaged in hermetically sealed containers” and “whole cheese that is not made from a pasteurized source”.
The regulations pertaining to a requirement for the indication of a date on the label for these types of products are quoted below:
B.27.005 states that “No person shall sell a commercially sterile low-acid food packaged in a hermetically sealed container unless (a) the label or container of the food bears a code or lot number that identifies, in a legible and permanent manner, (i) the establishment in which the product was rendered commercially sterile, and (ii) the day, month and year on which the food was rendered commercially sterile; and (b) the exact meaning of each item in any code or lot number referred to in paragraph (a) is available to an inspector at the establishment or, where the food is imported, from the importer”.
B.08.042 states that “No manufacturer shall sell whole cheese that is not made from a pasteurized source unless the date of the beginning of the manufacturing process is (a) marked or branded thereon within three days thereof or (b) marked on the label at the time of packaging, if the cheese is such that, because of its texture, consistency, or physical structure, such date cannot be effectively branded or marked on the cheese”.
In addition, there are certain foods for which expiration dates are required. Note that these foods all have specific nutritional requirements and several of them are used as sole sources of nutrition.
These are: Formulated liquid diets: B.24.103(g); Meal replacements and nutritional supplements: B.24.202(d); Foods represented for use in a low energy diet: B.24.304(h); Infant formulas, or human milk substitutes, and foods containing human milk substitutes: B.25.057(1)(f) and (2)(f)
“Expiration date”, B.24.001 and B.25.001, for these products means “the date (a) after which the manufacturer does not recommend that it be consumed, and (b) up to which it maintains its microbiological and physical stability and the nutrient content declared on the label”.
(c) There is no current activity with respect to putting forward such regulations.
(d) A durable life date provides consumers with an indication of the date until which a food, stored under appropriate conditions, would “retain its normal wholesomeness, palatability, nutritional value and any other qualities claimed for it by the manufacturer”. A growing number of Canadian companies have voluntarily adopted “best before” dating for their foods with a shelf life greater than 90 days to provide more information to their customers. This trend is expected to continue.
Regardless of whether a food is within or beyond its stated durable life date, if a food is considered to pose a hazard, it must be dealt with by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, CFIA, or other relevant authority. In the course of an investigation, the CFIA may make a request to Health Canada for a health risk assessment, HRA. It is, nevertheless, the responsibility of food manufacturers/importers to ensure the safety of the food they put on the market and to ensure that the durable life date is valid.