Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose has unveiled proposed changes to food nutrition labels that she says aim to make them both easier to read, and more "relevant" to Canadians’ lives.

Speaking in Edmonton on Monday, Ambrose said the proposed changes are the result of a series of consultations between the government and Canadian families that focused on the current food nutrition labels, and how they might be changed.

Highlights of the proposals include:

  • Changes to the Nutrition Facts Table, so that nutrients that Canadians may want to consume less of are listed near the top of the table, and the nutrients that Canadians may want to consume more of are listed at the bottom.
  • Requiring the declaration of potassium and vitamin D, which are nutrients that many Canadians are not getting enough of.
  • Adding a reminder at the bottom of the label that reads: "5% DV or less is a little, 15% DV or more is a lot." This line will help Canadians quickly identify if a food product has too little or too much of a certain nutrient.
  • Grouping all sugars together under the ingredient name "sugar," so that consumers have a clear idea of how much sugar is contained in the specific food product.
  • Creating guidelines that will attempt to standardize serving sizes for similar types of food products.

On the last point, Ambrose said there would also be a push to create "reference amounts" that reflect how Canadians actually eat food. She used the example of the serving size for bread, which is currently a single slice, even though most Canadians typically consume two slices at a time.

"It's really about making this easier to understand, (and) relevant to people's lives," she said.

Ambrose said the government is welcoming feedback on the proposed changes, and the public is invited to comment on the changes for the next 60 days.

She added that the government is committed to helping Canadians make healthier food choices.

"As Canada's health minister I am worried about the rising rates of childhood obesity and of chronic disease," she said. "Food, as we all know, plays an essential role in the health of our children, and of course throughout our lives.

"Canadians in general are trying to eat healthier and we want to support them in making healthy decisions about their food."