New federal standard to expand beer ingredient options

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More variety in allowable ingredients and more requirements for declarations are now part of the federal rules on what can be called beer in Canada.

The federal government on May 1 announced “modernized” beer standards under Canada’s Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) — the rules laying out the requirements to be met by a product labelled, packaged, sold and advertised as beer in Canada.

The FDR updates are expected to allow brewers to “develop new products by using new ingredients and flavouring preparations while maintaining the integrity of beer,” the government said in a release, while offering more “clarity on what constitutes standardized beer.”

For instance, the new rules clarify the term “carbohydrate” and clarify that herbs and spices are allowed. Apart from cereal grains and flavouring preparations, the rules also allow for addition of “honey, maple syrup, fruit, fruit juice or any other source of carbohydrates.”

The updated rules also remove listed processing aids from the beer standard, making it more consistent with most of the 300-plus food standards covered in the FDR which don’t list processing aids, such as antifoaming agents used during manufacturing.

“A modernized beer standard allows Canadian brewers to develop a new range of products that meet the tastes of our consumers,” Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said in the government’s release.

But the FDR will now also require beer labels to declare food allergens, gluten sources and/or added sulphites. Flavouring preparations will also have to be declared, such as, say, “beer with blueberry flavour.”

Such a declaration must either be included in the list of ingredients — which, as with all standardized alcoholic beverages, is voluntary for beer — or be added as a statement, such as, say, “Contains: Sulphites.”

Those requirements “will give consumers assurance that the beer they drink will not pose a risk to their health because of a food allergy or food sensitivity,” Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said in the same release.

The updates also set a limit of four per cent residual sugar — that is, the sugars left in the product after fermentation is completed. The limit is meant to “distinguish standardized beer from sweeter malt-based beverages.”


The updated standard is also expected to reduce “duplication” in the FDR as it removes the standard for ale, stout, porter and malt liquor — which was “virtually identical” to the standard for beer — to have just one standard for all beer styles and types.

The changes to the FDR must be applied starting Dec. 14, 2022. Until then, the government said, Canadian brewers and beer importers “must follow either the previous or the new requirements.”

The requirements for compositional standards under the FDR only apply on products traded interprovincially or imported into Canada.

The new rules “will ensure beer is treated as distinct from other beverage alcohol categories for decades to come,” Luke Harford, president of trade association Beer Canada, said in the sam release. “We are pleased to see that the changes permit the use of new ingredients and recognize beer as a beverage alcohol product that is low in sugars.”

According to the government’s impact analysis statement, the FDR’s beer standards “had not previously undergone a major amendment for at least 30 years” while the industry “had recently been seeking the use of more ingredients than was permitted by the compositional standard.”

Some small craft breweries, the government said, “may experience difficulty in complying with the requirements because of limited financial resources.”

Also, the government granted, some products “may not meet the modernized beer standard and will have to be sold as unstandardized alcoholic beverages and not be represented as beer.”

Also, the government said, the FDR updates could potentially impact trade with other countries that don’t have the same beer compositional standard. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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