Labelling Requirements for Fish and Fish Products
Common Name - Fish and Fish Products

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Every fish, can of fish or the wrapper or label thereon shall be correctly and legibly marked with the common name of the fish. Refer to Legibility and Location – Fish and Fish Products for more information. [25(1)(a) and (2), 26(1)(a) and (2), FIR].

The common name of a fish product is [B.01.001, B.01.006(1), Food and Drug Regulations]:

  • the name prescribed by the Fish Inspection Regulations (or other applicable Canadian legislation) [38-40, 51, 52, 72, FIR] or
  • the name identified by boldface type in the Food and Drug Regulations; or
  • if the name is not prescribed in legislation, the name by which the food is generally known;

CFIA Fish List

The CFIA Fish List provides regulatory guidance regarding the common names for fish. The names on the CFIA Fish List are considered acceptable common names and the use of these names is recommended. The use of common names that are not on the CFIA Fish List can be assessed against the requirement that no person shall package or label fish in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive [27, FIR; 5(1), FDA; 7(1), CPLA].

The CFIA Fish List also provides a Taxonomic Serial Number (TSN) for each species, along with any associated hazards. Scientific names for fish species are verified with the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS).

Anyone seeking an amendment (deletion or addition) to the CFIA Fish List may submit a request through the Ask CFIA website. Applications can be made in accordance with Section 5 of the Guidance on Determining the Common Names for Fish Sold or Processed in Canada.

Generic Common Names

Unless outlined in the Fish Inspection Regulations, the use of generic names such as "fish fillets" or "fish portions" is not permitted. A name of the species should be incorporated into the common name, for example "haddock fillets", "cod portions".

Labelling of Pacific Salmon in Canada

The name "Pacific Salmon" is not included as an acceptable common name in the CFIA Fish List due to the different market values of species of Pacific salmon. As described above, the common name must always include the name of the species, for example "chum salmon fillets" or "sockeye salmon portions". The statement "Pacific salmon" is permitted on the label only as additional information, but may not replace the common name.

Indication of Geographic Origin

The geographic location where the fish has been harvested may be added to the common name, however this is optional.

Canned Fish Products

The common name on canned fish must:

  • be shown in letters of equal height and prominence, and
  • indicate whether the product has been prepared
    • by mincing, flaking or other special process;
    • from selected parts of fish;
    • for dietetic use [25(1)b, FIR].

Surimi

Fish products that are made from surimi (a paste made from highly refined minced fish) must use the name by which the food is generally known, as there is no prescribed common name in the Fish Inspection Regulations nor identified in boldface type in the Food and Drug Regulations. Therefore, such products may use the term "surimi" in the common name, and should include additional descriptors as appropriate (e.g. surimi roll, surimi cakes).

In some instances, surimi-based products closely resemble more expensive seafood products, such as crab legs, shrimps, or scallops through flavouring and shaping. Surimi-based products that resemble these foods should be labelled and/or advertised to clearly show that they are imitations.

For example:

  • The common name identifies the term "artificial" or "simulated" or "imitation", (such as, "artificial crab legs" and "imitation lobster meat"), or
  • The common name identifies the name of the species used in the product, (such as, "crab flavoured Alaskan Pollock" and "Lobster flavoured seafood made from whiting"), or
  • If various species were used, the common name refers to a generic name (such as, "crab flavoured seafood" and "lobster flavoured kamaboko")

Fish Oils

From a single species

If the oil has been extracted from a single species of fish or marine animal, the common name of the product should be the common name of the species, e.g. "halibut oil" or "seal oil".

From various species

If the oil is a mixture of oils extracted from various species, the name of the product must include all the common names of the species, e.g., "salmon, sardine and seal oil" and the common names of the species must be repeated in the list of ingredients. The common names must be declared in the ingredients list in descending order by their content in the product.

Or

If the oil has been extracted from multiple marine animal species, and not from fish species, a generic common name "Marine oil" can be used. The common names of the marine species must be included in the list of ingredients in descending order by their content in the product.

Or

If the oil has been extracted from multiple fish species, but not from other marine animals such as seals, a generic common name "Fish oil" can be used, and common names of the fish species must be included in the list of ingredients in descending order by their content in the product.

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