Canadian packaging and labeling requirements for wine, beer and distilled spirits are administered under Canada’s "Food and Drugs Act and Regulations and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and Regulations." In addition to the general packaging and labeling requirements for most foods, the regulations for alcoholic beverages cover common names and standardized container rules. The province of Quebec has additional requirements for alcoholic beverage labeling, namely that of requiring information on the label to be in French or in both French and English.
Labels must display, in English and French, the following information:
For more information, refer to Chapter 10 of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’sGuide to Food Labelling and Advertising.
Labeling of food allergens, while voluntary, is highly encouraged. Wine products may label their products with the phrase "Contains sulphites".
Please refer to the Food Allergens section of the Guide to Importing Food Products Commercially for more information.
In principle, food products derived from genetic modification that are demonstrated to be safe and nutritious are treated the same as non-genetically modified foods with regard to labeling requirements.
Labeling for genetically modified foods and foods derived from genetically modified ingredients is voluntary. For more information, please refer to the Genetically Engineered Foods page of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website.
For a list of FAQs on Genetically Modified foods, please visit Health Canada’s Factsheets & Frequently Asked Questions page.
Standardized container size requirements for wine exist in the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations:
"Wine bottled after January 1, 1979 may only be sold in Canada in a container size that has a net quantity of product of 50, 100, 200, 250, 375, 500, or 750 millilitres or 1, 1.5, 2, 3 or 4 litres" [Section 36(c) of the Consumer Packing and Labeling Regulations
The U.S. and Canada are signatories to the Mutual Acceptance Agreement on Oenological Practices, which recognizes differences in countries’ winemaking practices. Through this Agreement, signatory countries (U.S., Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, and New Zealand) accept that wine made in another signatory country should be allowed to be sold in its market, despite the differences in oenological practices. The Agreement, however, does not apply to variances in labeling regulations; therefore, U.S. exporters are still required to verify their labels are in accordance with Canadian regulations (refer to the Labeling Requirements section for more information).
The following is a typical list of documents that may need to be presented in order for the imported product to be released from Customs:
Please note that this list is by no means exhaustive and is simply included for information purposes; as such, importers are urged to contact their broker for confirmation of proper documentation required.
Beverage alcohol must be imported into Canada through a liquor board or commission in the province where the product will be sold/consumed. Generally speaking, U.S. exporters must have their products "listed" by the liquor control agency in each province individually. The liquor board or commission usually serves as the importer of record and along with the registered agent coordinates the importation of the product.
In most provinces, it is necessary to have a registered local agent who can assist in obtaining a provincial liquor board listing. Agents also obtain label approvals and any other issues on behalf of the U.S. exporter.
U.S. exporters should contact the liquor control agency for the province in which they seek to do business in order to obtain a list of registered agents.
Advertising of beverage alcohol products in Canada is controlled at both the federal and provincial levels.
Advertising is permitted for all beverage alcohol products, although legislation in this regard maintains several limitations that are aimed at promoting moderate, safe, and legal consumption. Examples of these include regulations which prohibit advertising from being appealing to children as well as depictions of alcoholic drinks being consumed or indicating inebriation.
Advertising Standards Canada, an industry trade group, also clears scripts for alcohol advertising prior to production, and ensures that advertisements all federal and provincial standards.
Specially denatured ethyl alcohol may only be imported by permit holders. Permits can be obtained by applying to any of the Regional Excise Duties office of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
Documents presented to the CRA must include the following information, in addition to standard customs information:
Denatured or specially denatured alcohol is relieved of excise duty; however, a sampling program is in place to ensure that the goods are properly denatured. The sampling can be done by a third party prior to Customs release in order to expedite the process. Importers are responsible for all fees related to the sampling and testing of the goods. For further information on the sampling process, importers are encouraged to review Canada Border Services Agency’s Customs Notice N-521.
Importers must obtain a license from their Regional Excise Duties office of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) prior to importing tobacco products.
Imported tobacco products and raw leaf tobacco are subject to an excise duty levied under the Canadian Excise Act, 2001. The excise duty varies depending on the type of product (e.g. for cigarettes, the duty is $0.396255 per five cigarettes, $1.572 per kilogram of raw leaf tobacco, and $14.786 per 1,000 cigars). Imported cigars have an additional duty of 65% of the duty paid value.
The government of Canada levies various taxes on alcohol beverage products, including:
The North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created duty free access for most beverage alcohol products imported into Canada from the U.S., and as such, the Customs duty does not apply. The federal excise tax on alcohol, however, is imposed on all products, regardless of origin.
As of April 15, 2008, the excise tax for wine is CAD$0.62/liter, CAD$0.3122/liter for beer, and CAD$11.69/liter of pure alcohol (for spirits).
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Canadian Society of Customs Brokers
Canada Revenue Agency
Canadian Embassy, Washington, D.C.
Office of Agricultural Affairs, U.S. Embassy, Ottawa
Please note that the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, a federal statute, gives Canadian provinces and territories full control over the importation of intoxicating liquor into their jurisdictions. As such, importers should consult the appropriate provincial or territorial liquor authority (see list below) before considering the importation or interprovincial trade of intoxicating liquor.
Also, while the Canada Border Services Agency is the first line regulatory agency at border points ensuring that all imports have appropriate documentation, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is the lead agency for ensuring that imports comply with the acts and regulations pertaining to food and agricultural products. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has the power to detain, destroy or return products that violate Canadian food regulations.
The information in this guide was obtained from external sources, including the websites of various governmental agencies and organizations, direct contact with those agencies and organizations, and from Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Attaché reports. Consequently, the accuracy of this information depends upon the accuracy of the sources.
TTB is not responsible for the content of external websites.