Minister of State for Agriculture Jean-Pierre Blackburn said on Monday that the government was committed to concluding consultations with industry and consumers about the labeling of Canadian processed foods.
The present rule, put in place by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2008, only allows foods that contain at least 98 percent Canadian-produced ingredients to be labeled ‘Product of Canada’. The law was meant to close a loophole that allowed any product to be labeled ‘Product of Canada’ as long as at least 51 percent of the production cost was met in Canada. This meant that some, or indeed all, of the ingredients could be produced elsewhere.
But many food manufacturers have argued that the new rule unfairly limits the number of products that can claim to be Canadian.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), despite arguing for tighter labeling laws for 20 years, has said the recently introduced rules go too far. Although Canada produces a lot of its own food, the 98 percent threshold excludes manufacturers of composite products if they use imported sugar, flavorings or spices, the CFA says. It has been campaigning for an 85 percent threshold.
But the government is not considering relaxing the 98 percent limit. Rather, it wants to create certain exemptions for ingredients that cannot be sourced in Canada.
It is still permitted for foods to be labeled ‘Made in Canada’, but manufacturers must list where the ingredients come from.
People have become increasingly concerned about the ethical production of their food in recent years, and concerns about transport emissions and their impact on the environment, for example, meaning that more people are keen to buy locally produced foods. Similarly, recent safety concerns of imports from countries such as China have fuelled the trend.
The food and beverage processing industry is the largest manufacturing employer in Canada and produces annual shipments worth $19 billion, according to government figures.