Made in Canada guidelines to be tightened

By Laura Crowley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food, Canada

Prime Minster Stephen Harper will introduce new tougher guidelines
for labeling food and drink as a 'Product of Canada', substantially
reducing the acceptable amount of foreign ingredients.

Current guidelines, unchanged since the 1980s, mean manufacturers can use the label on any product where at least 51 percent of production costs have been incurred in Canada. Because this can cover import costs and packaging, it means many of the ingredients, or indeed all, can come from elsewhere. Under the new proposals, the label will only be applicable to products where the ingredients are either all or mostly Canadian in origin. Where some foreign ingredients are used, this must be stated on the label. The announcement comes after promise of a review on the labeling guidelines was included in last December's Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan, which was aimed at improving food safety in Canada. "Our new guidelines are designed to redefine Canadian food content labels to better reflect the true origins of products in today's global marketplace,"​ said Prime Minister Harper. "Our government is tightening the definitions of these familiar labels, so Canadians know exactly what they're getting, and get exactly what they want." ​ This could increase competitiveness in the Canadian ingredients market. However, according to the industry association Food and Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC), there is only a small number of products carrying the label, and so this should not have a far-reaching effect. Effect on competitiveness ​Earlier this month, Canada's food labeling system came under some scrutiny. Speaking before the House of Commons committee, former head of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Robert Doering said loose requirements for using the "Product of Canada" label and slow regulatory approval processes undermine competitiveness for food and drink companies. To avoid Canada's regulatory approval process, he said companies manufacture products abroad, therefore placing additional pressures on Canadian manufacturers. Doering suggested labels such as 'Grown in Canada' or 'Prepared in Canada' would offer greater clarity to consumers, if a strong amount of the product comes from elsewhere. Local eating ​ Eating locally produced food is an increasing trend in both North America and Europe. According to a report by The Hartman Group conducted in the US December 2007, 73 percent of the 796 people questioned said they currently bought products they perceived to be locally made or produced. People are showing more ethical consumerism, with concerns of transport affecting the environment for example, meaning people are keen to know the origin of their food, and to buy local. Similarly, recent safety concerns of imports from countries such as China have also fuelled the growing trend. The current lax guidelines mean consumers are not made fully aware of what they are buying, and so cannot make an informed choice. The Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan said: "Canadians are seeking moreinformation to make decisions that match their personal interests and needs. As a result the Government ofCanadais reviewing current policies related to voluntary 'Made in Canada/Product ofCanada' claims."

Related topics: Regulation, Food safety and labeling

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