The classification of Foods and Natural Health Products (NHPs) can be considered difficult, grey, and convoluted. Sometimes even comes down to preference of classification and labelling verbiage for certain ingredients. Foods are governed by the Food and Drug Regulations, however, NHPs fall under the Natural Health Product Regulations. Foods are thought to be consumed by ad-libitum consumption, whereas NHPs are consumed through regimented dosing. Health Canada has published an interface guidance document to assist in classification and understanding.
Product Composition: It is important to consider each ingredient when classifying a product at the Food/NHP interface. Foods are thought to provide nourishment, satiety, flavour, etc. NHPs are thought to provide a medicinal benefit. NHP ingredients can be verified within the NHP Ingredients Database. This does not mean they cannot also be used in foods.
Foods are intended to provide nourishment, nutrition or hydration, energy (for example by providing a source of Calories) or to satisfy hunger, thirst or a desire for taste, texture, or flavour. (Health Canada)
Conversely, if a product is or contains an added ingredient that has no known food purpose but does have a purpose as a Health Product, this may support classification as an NHP.
For example, Green Tea (bagged) is classified as a traditional food. Green Tea extract (ingredient) is classified as an NHP.
Product Representation: Product Representation refers to the way the product is labelled and marketing materials appear to the consumer. The location it is sold in the grocery store near foods or near supplements may play a factor in classification. If the product displays a nutrition facts table and verbiage catered to servings it could be classified as a food. If the product shows health claims or therapeutic claims and medicinal ingredients it could be best classified as an NHP.
For example, Whey protein for source of protein could be classified as a food. Whey protein for workout recovery could be classified as an NHP.
Product Format: Product format is another primary factor in the determination of product classification. Traditional food formats such as beverages and bars could infer a food classification. Dosage formats such as tablet and capsule could be classified as an NHP. Powders are the in between case since there are some traditional foods in this format such as gelatin or beverage mixes.
Protein, Collagen or Greens powders can also fall under both categories by dosage format. This is where other classification items/factors come into play. Such as ingredients within the powder, labelling elements, health claims and marketing verbiage on package, branding or images used, etc.
Public Perception and History of Use: Historical patterns and how the average consumer views the product may also aid in classification. If the product has been consumed (safely) on the Canadian market for many years this may also alter the classification.
The specialists at Quality Smart Solutions can help classify and obtain registration for your products. We can provide options and directions for your products and labels if there is a classification that you prefer or reach out the regulator to assist in confirming the classification. Reach out to our team if you have any questions.
Safe Foods for Canadians Regulations Note:
All foods in Canada will be regulated by the Safe Foods for Canadians Regulations. Conventional and Supplemented foods now have additional requirements such as: Licensing, Traceability and Preventative Controls. Reach out to our team for assistance complying and importing within this new framework.
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Please contact our team for more information on food classification, formula review, labelling projects or importing. Our specialists are here to help!
NHP/Food Interface Guidance: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/natural-non-prescription/legislation-guidelines/guidance-documents/classification-products-at-food-natural-health-product-interface.html
NHP Ingredients Database: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/search-rechercheReq.do
Food and Drug Regulations: https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/c.r.c.,_c._870/index.html