Canadian Government Prepares to Change Food Labelling Laws

Backgrounder - Updates to Canadian Content Food Labelling
Deadline for submission of comments on the legislation is June 11.

21 May 2008 Ottawa, Ontario
Canadian grocery store shelves are lined with food products marked "Product of Canada" or "Made in Canada." Shoppers recognize these labels and seek them out. They assume, as they should, that products bearing these labels are grown or caught, processed, and packaged in Canada.

The federal government first introduced these Canadian content food labels in the early 1980s. The guidelines, which haven't been altered since their introduction, require two basic criteria be met before manufacturers can use the "Product of Canada" and "Made in Canada" labels:

* the last substantial change 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 are Canadian.

However, in the past twenty years, Canada's food supply has become increasingly global in nature. The way food is produced, processed, packaged, distributed and sold has changed significantly. This means a product could be grown in one part of the world, processed in another, and be packaged here in Canada, yet still qualify to use one of these labels.

Canadians have told us that allowing claims such as "Product of Canada" on food products that are manufactured in Canada but contain only 51 per cent Canadian "value-added" may not be consistent with what they understand or expect. Not surprisingly, Canadians are confused, frustrated, and have lost trust in these food labels.

We have developed a plan to update and redefine the familiar "Product of Canada" and "Made in Canada" food labels to better reflect the true origins of products in the modern marketplace.

Product of Canada
The proposed guidelines for the use of this label shift the definition of "Product of Canada" from the direct cost or value of a product to focus on the contents and ingredients
of a product. In order that a manufacturer be allowed to use the "Product of Canada" label, "all or virtually all" of the contents of the product must be Canadian. Therefore, all
significant components, ingredients, processing and labour used to make the product would need to be Canadian. There would be very little or no foreign content, with the exception of minor additives or spices which may not be available in Canada. This is similar to the approaches used
in a number of other countries.

Made in Canada
The term "Made in Canada" with a qualifying statement could apply to virtually every other product produced in Canada. Therefore, if a food product is manufactured or processed in
Canada, regardless of the origin of the ingredients, it could use a "Made in Canada" label. Products would use either "Made in Canada from domestic and imported
ingredients" or "Made in Canada from imported ingredients." This recognizes the importance of the value added by Canadian ingredients and processing and helps consumers identify when they are supporting Canadian jobs and the Canadian economy.

We're seeking feedback from Canadians on our proposed initiative. Over the coming days and weeks the Minister of Agriculture and Canadian Food Inspection Agency officials will meet with a wide range of key stakeholders including farm groups, processors, retailers and consumer groups. Ordinary Canadians are also invited to submit their comments by visiting The timeline for consultations is May 21 through June 11, 2008.

It is a key federal responsibility to ensure the foods and products that Canadians buy are safe, yet federal laws and guidelines on food and consumer products have been untouched for decades. That is why our Government has taken swift action to introduce our Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan designed to improve our safety and our health, make Canadian
brands more competitive among global consumers, and boost confidence at home as a country whose safety standards are second to none.

Highlights of the legislation include:

* cracking down on negligent manufacturers, importers and
retailers who knowingly endanger their customers;
* a new power for the federal government to order recalls
of unsafe consumer products;
* dramatically increasing fines for violation; and
* providing better safety information for consumers.

More information on the Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan
is available at:

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