New “Made in Canada” rules up for comment

The federal government has drafted a discussion paper on its proposed new rules for the labeling of food as “Product of Canada” and “Made in Canada.”

The new rules, released on Wednesday for public comment, “are designed to redefine Canadian food content labels to better reflect the true origins of products in today’s global marketplace,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a release Wednesday from Beamsville, Ont.

The deadline is June 11 for public comment on what the government has dubbed the Canadian Food Labelling Initiative. The online discussion paper includes a link to an interactive online survey. Comments can also be phoned in toll-free to 1-800-442-2342.

Current food labelling guidelines haven’t changed since the 1980s and don’t clearly reflect the actual Canadian content in foods sold in Canada, the government said.

Those guidelines only state that two criteria must be met before manufacturers use Canadian-content statements: the last substantial transformation of the goods must have occurred in Canada, and at least 51 per cent of the total direct costs of producing or manufacturing the goods must be Canadian.

New rules

The proposed new guidelines call for a “Product of Canada” label to be allowed only when both the contents and processing of that food are Canadian. A qualified “Made in Canada” label, meanwhile, can be applied to products containing imported ingredients — as long as the products are manufactured or processed in Canada.

A “Product of Canada” label would allow for little or no foreign content, except, for example, minor additives or spices that can’t be sourced in Canada.

A “Made in Canada” label would be used on a food product made or processed in Canada, regardless of whether the ingredients are imported or domestic or both.

However, before “Made in Canada” could be used on a food product, the last substantial transformation of the product must have occurred in Canada and the claim would be qualified with either “Made in Canada from domestic and imported ingredients” or “Made in Canada from imported ingredients.”

The new rules allow for other statements or claims to be used if they’re truthful and not misleading for consumers. For example, the government said, “Roasted in Canada,” “Packaged in Canada” or “Processed in Canada” could be used.

But to ensure clarity, Ottawa plans to encourage the use of “Product of Canada” and “Made in Canada” on products that do meet the new guidelines.

The government asked survey respondents to keep some key points in mind as they read the discussion paper or take the survey:

  • the guidelines are, first and foremost, in place to avoid misleading claims, so they should reflect consumer and industry expectations about what a true Canadian product is;
  • the guidelines have to be clear, transparent and support consumer choice; and
  • guidelines must be simple to understand and communicate to consumers, producers, processors and importers — and they must be clear for regulators to enforce them.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture praised the government’s proposed new guidelines as being “very much in keeping with farmers’ requests under the CFA’s ‘Grown in Canada’ proposal.”

“Canadian farmers proudly produce food of the highest quality. Our members see this as an opportunity to strengthen the brand of Canadian-grown food,” CFA president Bob Friesen said in a release Wednesday.

“We welcome the opportunity to help the government develop and implement an effective promotional campaign to accompany the new guidelines.”

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