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Product of Canada labelling - It's not what you think

Appearances can be deceiving – even when it comes to your groceries. That can of apple juice in your cupboard isn’t exactly what it claims to be. It has recently come to light that seeing a “Product of Canada” label on foodstuffs at the grocery store does not mean it contains purely Canadian ingredients. By law, the label reflects where most of the money is spent on producing a food product. According to current Canadian federal regulations if 51% or more of the product’s cost is spent in Canada, whether via overhead, shipping, or employment costs then it warrants a “Product of Canada” label. Or if the “last substantial transformation” of the goods occurred in Canada then it can also be labelled “Product of Canada.”

These labelling laws were written by the federal government in 1985. It is important to note that in 1985, only 20% of our food was imported. In 2007, 40% of our food is being imported.

Here are some common food items with labelling that has been found to be misleading.

Apple Juice: There are no apple juice concentrate producers left in Canada and only two in the United States. Most apple concentrate sold in Ontario originates in China and ends up on grocery store shelves labelled “Product of Canada.”

Fish: Fish is one of the products that is labelled “Product of Canada” if the last substantial transformation of the goods occurred here. This transformation can include saucing, seasoning, or turning the fish into fish sticks.

Garlic: The “Product of Canada” label on prepared garlic belies the fact that most of the garlic is sourced from China. Despite the tariffs on garlic previously imposed by the Canadian International Trade Tribunal for the country of China, it is Chinese garlic on grocery store shelves (
Ice Cream: If cream is not in the ingredients list (and instead you see modified milk ingredients, skim milk powder, milk protein concentrates, milk protein isolates, casein, caseinates or whey protein concentrates), then most likely you are consuming ice cream made with non-Canadian ingredients.
There is action being taken to address this issue. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is proposing a “Green Label Program” that would spotlight food produced in Canada. You can read more about it at under Program and Projects.

According to a Marketplace report a government committee has been formed and members want to require that 51% of ingredients come from Canada if something is to be labelled “Product of Canada”.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency outlines the labelling system as follows:
Both "made in Canada" and "product of Canada" imply that the food was manufactured in this country. However, these statements do not necessarily mean that all of the ingredients used are domestic. It may be possible to use more appropriate and explicit terms than "made in Canada" to describe the process that the food has undergone. For example:
"roasted and blended in Canada" to describe coffee since the coffee beans are always imported;
"fermented and bottled in Canada from Canadian and imported grapes" to describe wine when more than 25 percent of the grape juice or the grapes are imported;
"packaged in Canada" to describe food which is imported in bulk and packaged in Canada;
"processed in Canada" to describe a food such as peanut butter when the peanuts are imported.
The term "made in Canada" should not be used to describe foods when it is only the label or container that is made in Canada.

You can find a guide to the “Made in Canada” label at the Competition Bureau Canada website:

To find out more about the sources of food on the shelves of Canadian grocery stores, you can try calling Customer Information. A toll-free number should be provided on the package. Warning: You may be left with a lot of unanswered questions!

There are several other places you can contact to voice your concern on the issue. It is recommended that you contact both the bureaucratic agency and Minister responsible.

Health Canada:
Office of Nutrition Policy and PromotionHealth CanadaTower A, Qualicum Towers2936 Baseline Road, 3rd FloorA.L. 3303DOttawa, OntarioK1A 0K9
Phone: (613) 957-8329


The Honourable Mr. Tony Clement, Minister of Health
Minister's Office - Health CanadaBrooke Claxton Building, Tunney's Pasture Postal Locator: 0906COttawa, Ontario, CanadaK1A 0K9
Canadian Food Inspection Agency:

Phone: 1-800-442-2342
There is also an online form that can completed, available at:

The Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture & Agri-Food:

The Honourable Gerry Ritz
Sir John Carling Building
930 Carling Avenue
Ottawa, ON K1A 0C5

Phone: (613) 995-7080

Any letters you send should also be copied to your Member of Parliament:

Chris Charlton (Hamilton Mountain, NDP)
845 Upper James Street West, 2nd floor
Hamilton, ON L9C 3A3

David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre, NDP)
22 Tisdale Street South
Hamilton, ON L8N 2V3

Wayne Martson (Hamilton East – Stoney Creek, NDP)
40 Centennial Parkway North, Suite 2
Hamilton, ON L8E 1H6

David Sweet (Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, Conservative)
59 Kirby Avenue, Unit 3
Dundas, ON L9H 6P3

Mike Wallace (Burlington, Conservative)
777 Guelph Line
Burlington, ON L7R 3N2

Eating Local for the Environment

Wondering what all the fuss on eating local is about? It is a topic that has been receiving a great deal of media coverage and for good reason. Eating local is not only healthier and better tasting; it also benefits the environment. By choosing foods that are produced near you, you are decreasing your ecological impact in several ways.

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of eating local is that it dramatically reduces the amount of transportation required to deliver a food product from farm to fork. A recent study conducted by the Region of Waterloo Public Health found that it takes an average of 4,497 km for 58 commonly eaten food items to reach our plates[i]. Compare this to the distance to your nearest farm-gate stand, farmers’ market, or grocery store that carries local produce and the environmental impact is obvious. Buying local means less ‘food miles’ and thus, cuts down on the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

Buying local also means supporting the local farms that grow the items on your grocery list. Smaller farms are ideal for selling directly to consumers and through the local market because they are well suited to grow a variety of crops. While large-scale farming operations employ the use of monocultures, smaller farms grow a diversity of crops in order to provide their customers with a variety of products. Varying and rotating crops causes less soil degradation and thus requires less pesticides and herbicides to yield a successful crop. Farmers of small to mid-sized farms are generally more likely to be responsible stewards and protect the ecological health of the land[ii]. With the number of farms dramatically decreasing in Ontario, it is important to support the smaller-scale farms that remain and operate with the integrity of the environment in mind.

Unfortunately, farming is becoming an increasingly difficult occupation. The farmers’ share of the food dollar spent by consumers has decreased from over 40 cents in 1910 to less than 7 cents per dollar in 1997[iii]. Supporting local farmers and ensuring farming is a viable occupation allows them to remain on their farm. Otherwise, many farmers are forced to sell their land to developers eager to build large-scale housing projects on fertile agricultural land. Therefore, buying local and supporting farmers helps combat the trend towards urban sprawl.

The environmental impact of where your food comes from is just one reason for the increased popularity of eating local. A recent poll conducted by the Friends of the Greenbelt found that 8 in 10 of respondents prefer to buy locally grown produce[iv]. After considering the environmental impact of our food choices, it is not hard to see why!
[i] Food Miles: Environmental Implication of Food Imports to Waterloo Region, Region of Waterloo Public Health, 2005.
[ii] Gurin, David, “Farmers’ Markets: Opportunities for Preserving Greenbelt Agriculture.”
[iii] Halweil, Brian. Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket. W.W. Norton and Co. New York. 2004.
[iv] Greenbelt Foundation 2007 Awareness Research.

Fall Harvest: What's available in November

Bitter Melon
Bok Choy
Brussel Sprouts
Choy Sum
Fuzzy Squash
Lo Bok
Snow Pea Shoots
Tomatoes (Greenhouse)
U Choy
Water Spinach

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

Looking for something fun and educational to do
this November? Check out the Royal,
Canada’s premier agricultral fair
Royal Agricultural Winter Fair
85th Anniversary
November 2nd to 11th
The Ricoh Centre, The Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition
Toronto, ON
Contact: (416) 263.3400

To market, to market

The recent interest in the potential reloca-
tion of the Centre Mall Farmers’ Market and
the proposed redevelopment of the Hamilton
Farmers’ Market should remind local con-
sumers and politicians that farmers’ markets
are extremely important community assets
that we can’t afford to lose. Farmers’ markets
present many benefits to participating grow-
ers, the local economy, consumers and the
environment. They also offer farmers a
higher return on expenditure for their prod-
ucts, greater control over their economic
lives, an alternate source of revenue, and an
opportunity to diversify areas of expertise
– in agriculture and business, community
support and networking, and direct-sales
Farmers’ markets also help strengthen the
local economy. A dollar spent locally “is usu-
ally spent 6 to 15 times before it leaves the
community. From $1, you create $5 to $14 in
value within that community”. In addition,
consumers drawn to the farmers’ markets
typically spend more money at the stores and
restaurants that surround the market, further
fuelling local economic growth. Farmers’
markets create new job opportunities, par-
ticularly for farm families who often staff the
produce stand, and they have major poten-
tial for safeguarding jobs: a study in On-
tario found that “a total of 24,000 people are
directly involved in preparing and selling the
goods we find in [the province’s 127] farmers’
Consumers benefit from the atmosphere and
experience of farmers’ markets; confidence
in and knowledge of growing location and
agricultural methods employed; access to
fresher, healthier food; and strengthening of
local community networks. Farmers’ markets
also help alleviate some pressure on the en-
vironment: the distance food travels is vastly
Update: The proposed new location of
the Centre Mall Farmers’Market is
Ottawa St at Cannon. Contact Eat Local
for more information.
Hamilton Eat Local: