Memo to clarify policy on the term "misleading", as it appears in the Fertilizers Regulations

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Purpose

This policy document is intended to clarify the meaning of the terms "incorrect", "misleading", "deceive" or "mislead" as they appear in Section 19. (2) of the Fertilizers Regulations. For the purpose of this document, the term "misleading" is intended to address all of these terms as listed above.

Regulatory Background

In April, 2013, the Fertilizers Regulations were amended to remove responsibilities and authorities over quality and efficacy parameters. Specifically, the Fertilizers Regulations were amended to remove all requirements to substantiate efficacy as well as all quality standards, numerical criteria and tolerances.

Previously, the term "misleading" in the Fertilizers Regulations was interpreted to be associated with claims pertaining to the safety, quality or efficacy of the product. However, with the renewed focus on safety of fertilizer and supplement products, the term "misleading" remains in the Fertilizers Regulations in relation to claims which impact on the safety of the fertilizer/supplement product.

Section 19. (2) of the Fertilizers Regulations maintains reference to "misleading" on fertilizer / supplement product labels:

19. (2) A label referred to in subsection (1) shall not have printed thereon
(a) any incorrect or misleading information or mark; or
(b) a brand or name that would tend to deceive or mislead a purchaser with respect to the composition or utility of the product to which the label relates.

Current Status

The current interpretation of the term "misleading" now relates solely to the safety of the product, and associated claims (i.e. information, mark, brand, name) which may impact on the safety of the product.

In the review of a fertilizer/supplement product, the Fertilizer Safety Section ensures that the product is considered to be safe for humans, plants, animals, and the environment when used according to label directions. A comprehensive safety review (based on label directions) is completed by the Fertilizer Safety Section. It is based upon this review of the product and associated application/use parameters that a product is granted approval (and registration, if applicable).

It is intended that no product label will make claims or references to mislead the consumer regarding the safety of the product. This reflects the presumption that the product is not to be used outside of the scope of the approved parameters indicated in the label text.

Examples of "misleading" information

  • Pictures or reference (e.g. brand or product name, label claim, etc.) to food crops on label when product has not been approved for use on food crops. Such reference could give the consumer the impression that the product could be safely used on food crops when the safety of the use pattern has either not been reviewed, or has been reviewed but not supported by the safety data available.
  • Pictures or reference to application of the product outside of the scope of the precautionary statements listed on the product label (e.g. applicator not wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, grazing of beef cattle on land where prohibited materials had been applied, etc.). Such reference could give the consumer the impression that the product can be safely used, regardless of precautionary statements.
  • Reference (e.g. brand or product name, label claim, etc.) to "Daily Feed" on label when product has not been approved for daily application. Such reference could give the consumer the impression that the product is safe to use on a regular basis when in fact the product may be limited in numbers of applications permitted due to safety standards (e.g. heavy metal loading).
  • Reference or statements suggesting that the product is completely safe and non-toxic to humans, animals or the environment (e.g. environmentally safe, safe for children and pets, ecologically friendly). Such statements could give the consumer the impression that reasonable precautions (e.g. do not consume, etc.) are unnecessary. Also, all products must be safe with respect to plant, animal, human health and the environment; such claims are not permitted as they would imply that other products may pose risks.
  • Reference or statements indicating that the product is pathogen free when there is potential for pathogens to survive in the product matrix. Such statements could give the consumer the impression that the specific product has been analyzed to determine any potential pathogen presence. Even with product approvals, the approvals are based upon samples of specific batches/lots, and are tested against pathogen indicators (i.e. not every batch/lot is tested pre-market, and not every potential pathogen is analyzed for).
  • Reference or statements pertaining to low leaching potential of the product, without substantiation. Such statements could give the consumer the impression that environmental conditions (soil type, moisture conditions, etc.) and application parameters (rates, timing, frequency, etc.) would not impact on the leaching potential of the product, and thus on the application and surrounding environment.
  • Having a product name that is not indicative of what the product is. For example, giving a product a name designated in Schedule II when it does not in fact conform to the associated composition (e.g. additional ingredients are added to the product, additional processing steps are taken to manufacture the product, etc.)

Information Outside of Scope of "Misleading"

The Fertilizer Safety Section of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will not regulate and enforce label statements pertaining to efficacy and/or quality, for example:

  • claims pertaining to environmental benefits (e.g. organic, natural, environmentally sound, balanced, healthy, greener, slowly available plant nutrients, improving soil structure, testimonials/endorsements, etc.);
  • claims pertaining to performance of product (e.g. greener/taller plants, improves yields); and
  • comparative claims against another product/product type (e.g. best, better, superior, faster-acting, etc.).

Please note that claims pertaining to the activity of the product may change the classification of your product, potentially even changing the requirement for registration of your product, for example:

  • references or statements claiming pesticidal activity of the product when the component of the product contributing to this activity has not been registered/approved under the Pest Control Products Act; and
  • references or statements indicating supplement activity (i.e. not attributed to plant nutrients, e.g. increases water holding capacity, microbial activity, etc.) when the product has been represented as a fertilizer.

Contact

If you have any questions related to this document, please contact:

Fertilizer Safety Section
c/o Pre-market Application Submissions Office (PASO)
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
59 Camelot Drive
Ottawa, ON K1A 0Y9
Canada
Phone: 1-855-212-7695
Fax: 613-773-7115
Email: paso-bpdpm@inspection.gc.ca

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