The Government of Canada develops and maintains overarching laws, policies and regulations for alcoholic beverages that govern areas such as labelling and packaging requirements, compositional standards, geographical indications, and excise duties.
Labelling and packaging requirements
What are the labelling and packaging requirements in Canada?
The Government of Canada requires that alcoholic beverages follow federal requirements for labelling of these products. Information on the Government of Canada’s labelling requirements can be found here.
Spirits and wine packaged in Canada are also subject to the labelling requirements under the Regulations Respecting the Information to be Displayed on Alcohol Containers and their Packaging.
Beer packaged in Canada is subject to the labelling requirements in section 7 of the Brewery Regulations.
What are the compositional standards for liquor in Canada?
The Government of Canada applies compositional standards that outline requirements that must be met for a product to be labelled, packaged, sold and advertised as a specific type of liquor, such as Vodka. These compositional standards can be found under Division 2 of the Food and Drug Regulations.
The requirements for compositional standards under the FDR only apply when the food products are traded inter-provincially or imported into Canada.
What is the application process in Canada for Geographical Indications?
Geographical Indications (GIs) are a category of intellectual property (IP) that inform consumers that a product is produced in a certain location and has characteristics, quality, or reputation that can be attributed to that place of production. For example, notable GIs that are sold in international markets include “Champagne” (France), “Napa Valley” (United States), “Chianti” (Italy),“Canadian Whisky” (Canada).
Protecting products as GIs and marketing them on this basis has the potential to provide consumers with the ability to trust and distinguish quality products, as well as to assist producers to promote their products more effectively.
The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) is responsible for processing requests for the protection of GIs in Canada. A GI can identify a wine or spirit, or an agricultural product or food as set out in the Trademarks Act. Information on GIs can be found on the CIPO website here, with further details on how to request protection along with sample forms here
Other relevant legislation, regulations and policies
What rules apply to me?
Alcoholic beverages sold in Canada are subject to the provisions of the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR), as well as those of the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR). Alcoholic Beverages in Canada are also subject to the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act which governs the importation of intoxicating liquors.
Depending on the type of alcoholic beverage, other federal acts or regulations not enforced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) may also apply, such as the Spirit Drinks Trade Act. Provincial regulations may also have labelling requirements that apply when these products are sold within that province.
In general, excise duties are imposed on alcohol products at the time of production or importation, and are payable by the manufacturer or importer. Excise duties are imposed under the Excise Act, 2001 on spirits and wine produced in Canada. Excise duty is imposed under the Excise Act on beer produced in Canada. Excise duty rates can be found here. Duties are imposed at equivalent rates under the Customs Tariff on imported spirits, wine and beer.
Travelers may import alcoholic beverages free of duty under certain conditions. More information can be found here.
Who can I contact for more information?
For more information, please call 1 800 O-Canada, or contact Canada’s Internal Trade Representative.