Food Packages: Do you know how to read the labels?


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Canada’s food guide came out early this year. But it’s still not easy to know exactly what we’re putting on our plates. Nutritional value, organic, product origin . . . do you know what’s true and what isn’t?


A merchant can sell foods that have passed their “best before” dates.

True. The “best before” date is given for information purposes only.

It’s illegal to sell food that’s gone bad, for example, rotten meat. It’s also illegal for the merchant to change the date originally put on the product. 

Food packages must always have a nutrition facts table.

False. Some foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, and alcoholic beverages don’t need a nutrition facts table.

See Health Canada’s guide to learn more.

A food label must list the ingredients alphabetically.

False. The ingredients must be listed according to how much of the ingredient the food contains, in descending order. 

Some foods don’t need an ingredients list, for example, most foods that are packaged in the store.

“Fair trade” written on a product means the product was produced according to standards for this type of business.

False. In Quebec, there are no special labelling rules for fair trade products.

But international organizations, like Fairtrade Canada, can certify businesses that follow fair trade practices.

The label must state if a product contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

False. This statement is not required.

But a merchant can state that a product contains no GMOs as long as it’s true.

To be labelled “organic,” a food must respect environmental standards.

True. In Quebec, the word “organic” is a “reserved designation.” This means no one can use it unless they are certified. To ensure the claim is true, look for the words “certified by” and the name of an accredited certification body.

“Quebec Ice cider” is a reserved designation.

True. “Quebec Ice Cider” is a protected geographical indication. This is a guarantee that the product comes from a specific region.  

As of March 2019, Quebec has five protected geographical designations: Quebec Ice Cider, Neuville Sweet Corn, Quebec Icewine, Agneau de Charlevoix and Vin du Québec.