Are cosmetics labeling violations in Canada rife or rare?

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cosmetics Health canada

CanWest News Service recently ran an investigative story into widespread cosmetics labeling violations in Canada but the authorities insist that the vast majority of products comply with all legal requirements.

Using Health Canada inspection reports released under Access to Information, CanWest News Service published examples of extensive non-compliance.

At one store, CanWest said inspectors found 47 personal care products that contravened labeling laws and at another discovered that between 80 and 90 percent of the inventory flaunted the rules.

CanWest also named big household brands among the offenders. The news service said Nivea Visage Q10 Advanced Wrinkle Reducer and Biotherm White Detox from L’Oreal were among the products ordered from stores because of labeling problems. contacted Health Canada about the violations and the government department sought to qualify the findings. Spokesperson Philippe Laroche said “these non-compliant products represent a very small portion”​ of the tens of thousands of products sold in Canada at any given time.

Laroche also said the majority of labeling infractions uncovered by Health Canada were minor and present a very low risk to the health and safety of consumers. Some of the most common examples are listed below:

  • Ingredient labeling is present, but INCI naming system is not used properly.
  • Inappropriate cosmetic claims (e.g. "reverses wrinkles" vs. "reduces the look of wrinkles").
  • Hazard symbols too small/too far apart/too light in contrast to the rest of the container.
  • Incomplete bilingual labeling.

Mike Patten from the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association also commented on the CanWest article. The spokesperson told “We do not believe there is significant non-compliance as outlined in the article.

“Retail outlets are regularly inspected by Health Canada and we generally only hear of smaller infrequent issues of non-compliance.”

Commenting on the discovery that big name brands were named among the offenders in the CanWest article, Patten said he expected the bulk of labeling issues to relate to disputed advertising claims because “it is unusual for larger companies to be found in substantive non-compliance.”

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