Labels. What would we do without labels? There are labels on practically everything we buy, from cars to toys to computers. It seems at times we need a legal degree to understand some of these labels. It should not be that way, but it is. Unfortunately, food products are no exception. Today, we will look at labels on packaged food products.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is a science-based regulator dedicated to protecting Canadians from preventable health risks related to food and zoonotic diseases (spread between animals and people).
They are a federal institution within the health portfolio that leads in mitigating risks to food safety by working with their partners in industry, consumers, and federal, provincial and municipal organizations.
The CFIA is also responsible for food labelling. In Canada, there are mandatory requirements for certain food products to indicate the country of origin on their labels. Companies may also make voluntary claims to highlight the origins of a product or ingredient in a product.
Country of origin labelling does not provide information on the safety of a food product. All food products sold in Canada, whether produced in Canada or abroad, must meet the same food safety standards.
According to the CFIA, food product may use the label “Product of Canada” or “Grown in Canada” if “all or virtually all” of the major ingredients, processing and labour used to make the product are Canadian.
Non-Canadian material must be negligible and usually involves spices, additives, vitamins or minerals. The CFIA’s website says these ingredients must account for less than two per cent of the product.
According to the regulations, including a “Product of Canada” designation is voluntary, so some products that are totally Canadian are not declared as such. The same applies to the other product labels, including the “Made in Canada” designation.
For a product to be labeled “Made in Canada”, the last substantial change in the food must occur in Canada, meaning food must have gone through some form of processing which changes it into a new product. For example, a Canadian factory could combine lettuce and tomatoes, either locally grown or imported, to create a salad with the designation “Made in Canada.”
However, the label requires a qualifier, which lets consumers know if it was manufactured in Canada with imported ingredients or a combination of imported and domestic ingredients. So, if the salad contained tomatoes and lettuce from the U.S., the label would have to say “Made in Canada” with imported ingredients.
If a “Packaged in Canada” label was on a jar of jam, this could mean the jam was made in the U.S. but simply canned in Canada. There is no requirement, however, to include information about the origin of the products.
Is this as clear as mud? Labels should make it easy for consumers to know what the product they are buying is made of, but as things go, life, and apparently labels, are not that easy.
One thing to look for when buying food products is “Product of Canada” label. This means the food product inside that can or bag was grown here in Canada.
If you don’t see this label on food products in your food or grocery store, ask your store manager to see if they can get more locally grown food into our stores and then into our homes. This would be great for our economy and for you and your family. Thank you for continuing to support our agriculture sector.
Thoughts for the week – Your greatest storm God can calm. Your greatest heartbreak God can heal.
Just some food for thought.
Remember that here in Chatham-Kent ‘We Grow for the World’. Check out our community agricultural website at www.wegrowfortheworld.com
Kim Cooper has been involved in the agribusiness sector for over 45 years.