Some Ontario meat producers say a Canadian Food Inspection Agency crackdown on cross-border sales of meats that aren’t federally inspected has blocked their wares from a local-level food fair in Quebec.
Pierre Belanger of Temiskaming, Ont., about 150 km north of North Bay, told CBC Monday that for years he has brought his pasture-fed bison meat to the Foire Gourmande food fair at Ville Marie, Que., on the other side of Lake Temiscaming.
According to the broadcaster, CFIA had previously “relaxed” its rules to allow Ontario producers to bring their meat across the border for sale at the three-day festival.
Regulations typically require meat from livestock slaughtered in one province to be processed at a federally-inspected facility before it can be sold in another province.
Belanger, who on Tuesday was still listed as a participant on the fair’s website, told CBC he had planned to bring 3,500 servings of his bison meat to the Ville Marie event.
However, to meet the strict interpretation of the rules, he said, he first would have had to haul his bison 650 km for slaughter at a federally-inspected facility at St-Andre-Avellin, about 75 km northeast of Ottawa. That, he said, would defeat the purpose of a “local food” showcase.
CFIA thus blocked Belanger and two other Ontario producers from bringing meat to Foire Gourmande, CBC said.
One of the festival’s organizers, Helene Lessard, was quoted by CBC describing the problem as a “nonsense situation,” adding that “we are having free trade with Panama, and we can’t have the Ontario meat here in Ville Marie.”
In this case, Belanger told CBC, “we just hit the wrong administrator or inspector who said ‘nope, no exceptions this year.’”
The event, which ran from Friday to Sunday, is billed as an exhibit of foods from the Abitibi-Tesicamingue region of Quebec and northeastern Ontario. About 50 exhibitors were scheduled to take part.
The event was moved this year to the lake’s waterfront where all exhibitors were to be housed in an 80-by-410-foot tent.