Vitamin D and Calcium: Information on Revised Labelling and Daily Values

In 2016, Canadian governmental authorities made a series of changes to food labelling regulations, which included updating the daily values (DVs) for various nutrients in the nutrition facts table to align with current dietary recommendations. More recently, they also introduced changes to the vitamin D fortification of certain foods, such as cow’s milk, as part of their strategy to update the vitamin D fortification regulations.

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Data are showing that most Canadians are not reaching their dietary requirements for vitamin D and calcium.1 For example, up to 87% of Canadian adult women do not consume sufficient calcium and approximately 20% of Canadians are at risk of vitamin D inadequacy.2,3

Calcium and vitamin D: Updated daily values in the nutrition facts table 

In 2016, Health Canada announced several updates to the nutrition facts table and list of ingredients on food labels. Among the listed modifications were new daily values (DVs) for vitamin D and calcium in the nutrition facts table to align with current recommendations:1

  • The DV for vitamin D increased from 5 mcg (200 IU) to 20 mcg (800 IU). 
  • The DV for calcium has gone from 1100 mg to 1300 mg. 

Changes to the DVs can impact the percentage of the DV provided by a serving of food that is reflected on the label.  For example, in the case of calcium, if a 30-gram portion of cheese contributes 20% of the DV for calcium based on a DV of 1 100 mg, the same food would provide 17% of the DV based on a DV of 1 300 mg. Changes in %DV are also to be expected for vitamin D, with more details provided below. For more information concerning the revised dietary reference intakes (DRIs) for vitamin D and calcium, click here

A five-year transition period was provided by the government to allow sufficient time for industry to make the necessary changes to their labels and use up the stocks of labels that have already been printed. With challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the transition and grace periods were extended further to December 15, 2022.  

Vitamin D and milk: an overview of fortification updates and their impacts on labelling

To help Canadians reach the current DRIs for vitamin D, Health Canada has been working toward an updated vitamin D fortification strategy.4 

Revisions include a voluntary increase in the vitamin D levels of cow’s milk (including liquid, evaporated, flavoured) and certain other specific products (goat’s milk and margarine). Consequently, dairy processors now have the choice to fortify their milk according to the mandatory levels prescribed in the Food and Drug Regulations (2.3 mcg per 250 ml serving of milk) or to opt for the new voluntary level of 5 mcg per 250 ml of milk.  All other regulatory requirements for these products will continue to apply.4 

How will these modifications to the vitamin D fortification impact the labelling of milk?

Cow’s milk is a major contributor of vitamin D in the diet of Canadians.1 It is important to note that the amount of vitamin D in milk is increased with the new voluntary fortification level. However, while the level of voluntary vitamin D fortification in milk is doubling, the %DV per serving reflected on the label will decrease due to the new DV being 4 times higher.4  

All manufacturers adopting the new voluntary vitamin D fortification level must accompany this change with labels that reflect the new DV for vitamin D.  As such, the following two fortification scenarios are possible during the transition period that is granted for the implementation of the new food labelling regulations:4

  • Under the mandatory fortification level: One cup (250 mL) of cow’s milk is fortified with 2.3 mcg, which corresponded to 45% of the previous DV (5 mcg). 
  • Under the voluntary fortification level: One cup (250 mL) of cow’s milk is fortified with 5 mcg of vitamin D, which corresponds to 25% of current DV (20 mcg). 

Importantly, in both scenarios, milk will be classified as an excellent source of vitamin D. More information concerning nutrient content claims can be found here.

What should I expect during this transition period for vitamin D and calcium?

During this transition period, certain discrepancies between labels can be expected as certain manufacturers may not have updated labels. Patients and clients may have questions, particularly about the amount of vitamin D in milk, and may experience certain challenges when interpreting or comparing labels. It is therefore important to emphasize that the amount of vitamin D and calcium in milk is not decreasing and that the decrease in %DV is due to a change in the DVs.  

Differentiating old from updated labels may also be helpful in better understanding these changes. A quick way to identify new labels is to note that the amounts of vitamins and minerals (such as calcium) provided by a serving of food will now be indicated in absolute amounts as well, rather than only as a percentage of the DV. 

Learn more about the changes made to labels here

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