Saturday, June 26, 2010

‘Product of Canada’: Here We Go Again

(Lexology – Ronald L. Doering, Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP)

The new “Product of Canada” guidelines came into effect on December 31, 2008, and were published as the new paragraph 4.19 in the Guide to Food Labelling: “a food product may claim ‘Product of Canada’ when all or virtually all major ingredients, processing and labour used to make the food product are Canadian.” The Guide defines the standard as 98%. It became clear within a matter of months that the standard was too restrictive and that the former producer and processor consensus of 85% would be more workable.

At a meeting of more than 50 representatives of the Canadian food processing industry on April 19, 2010, Minister of State for Agriculture the Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn announced new consultations on the issue but limited the exercise to a consideration of “exempting specific ingredients which are difficult to source in Canada”, i.e., sugar, vinegar and salt.

Who were the interests pushing for these three exemptions? Why not simply lower the threshold to 85%? Emails to officials to get some clarity on these questions remain unanswered.

By selecting without explanation three ingredients, officials have managed to create a minefield when an easy solution was there for the taking. This clumsy consultation, compounded by resort to an awkward computer questionnaire technique, is picking winners and losers while doing nothing to enlighten the consumer. Read more here.