Canadian food labels will be looking a little different – at least for foods that contain at least 0.5 grams of combined EPA and DPH omega-3 fatty acids.
Last month, Health Canada’s Food Directorate, the nation’s regulatory authority that establishes polices, sets standards and provides advice and information on the safety and nutritional value of food, gave a nod of approval which will allow foods containing certain levels of EPA/DHA to make the claim that they help lower triglyceride levels.
“The evidence consistently supports a highly consistent direction of effect towards a reduction in triglyceride levels when EPA and DHA are consumed,” said the Food Directorate. “The vast majority (>80%) of the treatment arms from the larger studies (≥30 participants) administering a daily intake of at least 1.5 g of EPA+DHA demonstrated a statistically significant reduction in triglyceride levels.”
The Global Organization of EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED), based in Salt Lake City, Utah, was quick to celebrate the nutrition label changes that will support the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
Along with a primary statement such as “85 grams (1/2 cup) of canned pink salmon supplies 40 percent of the daily amount of omega-3 EPA and DHA shown to help lower triglycerides,” Canada’s new food labels can also include the secondary statement “EPA and DHA help reduce/lower triglycerides.” The words “long-chain” and/or “omega” can also legally be placed in front of the secondary statement.
The primary statement must include the serving size as stated on the food’s nutritional label. (Ref. 1)
The labeling approval came after the Food Directorate reviewed the results of 77 global studies that looked at the benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA from both supplements and fortified foods. (Ref. 2)
To be eligible to carry the health claim, foods must:
- Contain at least 0.5 grams of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) combined per serving of stated size for fresh foods, prepackaged meals, nutritional supplements and meal replacements;
- Contain at least 10 percent of the weighted recommended nutrient intake (WRNI) of EPA and DHA per serving size;
- Contain .5 percent of less alcohol;
- Contain less than 15 to 25 percent of the recommended daily allowance of sodium, depending on whether or not the food item is fresh or a prepackaged meal;
- Contain less than 15 grams of total sugars per serving of stated size; and
- Is not one of the types of fish for which Health Canada recommends limiting consumption, due to their mercury concentrations, including fresh and frozen tuna, shark, swordfish, escolar, marlin, orange roughy and canned albacore (white) tuna.
The labeling directive is similar to those already approved in countries including the United States.
In Canada, omega-3 supplements sold as Natural Health Products are already allowed to make statements regarding the triglyceride-lowering benefits of EPA and DHA.
The sale of EPA and DHA fortified products was expected to reach $34.7 billion this year, thanks to expanding public awareness of the health benefits associate with omega-3 fatty acids. (Ref. 3)
That number is expected to grow to $37.9 billion by 2022, according to data from Global Market Insights released earlier this year. (Ref. 4)
Dietary supplements make up about 65 percent of the EPA/DHA market (check out Xtend-Life’s line of products here), with functional and fortified foods making up the remaining percentage.
Canada’s Institute of Medicine recommends 100 to 160 milligrams of DHA and EPA per day, although for those with heart disease, the recommendations rise to 500 milligrams or more per day. (Ref. 5)