After waxing about Canadian apple juice not really being Canadian, I was quite pleased to see CBC’s Marketplace tonight discussing the same issue on a larger scale. The program examined some food products which are labeled as “Product of Canada” and attempts to trace where the main ingredients actually come from. The host Wendy Mesley, examines No Name ice cream, prepared (jarred) garlic and frozen fish which are all labeled as “Product of Canada” and traces their main ingredients to China, Thailand, Indonesia, Mexico, the United States, New Zealand and/or the UK. As can be evidence by this show, even though consumers might not be aware of it, imported foods have infiltrated the Canadian marketplace. It comes as little surprise then that it is estimated the 40% of our food is imported.
Marketplace covered some of my previous questions about some of the details of the labeling laws. Apparently, overhead, Labour and shipping does count as part of the costs in calculating the 51% of costs required for designating a product as “Product of Canada”. The costs of shipping from foreign countries which I imagine can get quite high, combined with an overhead figure that can easily be manipulated can push almost any product into Product of Canada territory. Simply by paying your Canadian CEO and executive high enough, you can import products and label them as Canadian since with the overhead of the executive, 51% of the company’s costs are Canadian.
According to Marketplace, the 51% cost threshold isn’t even required for certain food product categories. Fish for example only have to have the “last substantive transformation” take place in Canada. Due to this lax regulation, it appears that almost all of the frozen fish that is sold by High Liner is actually caught or farmed in countries such as China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Russia and simply repackaged in Canada at their Lunenburg plant in Nova Scotia. No wonder the Canadian fisheries are having issues!
Apparently there is a push to have the law changed so that 51% of the ingredients would be required to label a product as “Product of Canada” instead of 51% of the cost that is currently required. While this would be a step forward, more complete and accurate country of origin food labeling is required. Perhaps a law stating that any ingredient which makes up more than a certain percentage (say 20%) of a product must have the associated country of origin on the label.
I love the fact that people are starting to think and question where their food and products are truly coming from but these labelling laws have to change.