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 (http://www.citt-tcce.gc.ca/).
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 www.cfa-fca.ca 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.
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:
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