Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
The Food Processors of Canada was created in 1947 to support canners and freezers across the country. No association represents all food processing interests. There are over 210 associations in the agrifood business in this country, and we're one of them, so we represent companies that have Canadian assets. We make things in this country; we're further processors. We make high-end dinners, entrées, pizzas, french fries. We export to 80 countries in 23 different languages.
The agrifood business is an interesting business. It's a very large community, with $32 billion at the farm gate and $78 billion of factory shipments; that's a $110 billion industry, which is co-dependent. There are over 5,000 plants, and 2,300 of them are registered with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
FPC did a study a few years ago and we found that 227,000 full-time people working in processing plants generated $18 billion worth of taxes to the provincial and federal governments--that's a fair amount--and that those 227,000 people generated enough wealth in the economy that it supported another 796,000 people, in everything from working in grocery stores to food service outlets to banks. It has a huge multiplier effect.
Is country of origin a factor for us? It certainly is. If you look at primary and processed imports into this country, it's $23 billion. If you look at exports, it's $31 billion. That's a fairly substantial amount of exports. Most of the products, which are all the products under the Canada Agricultural Products Act, have a grade designation, have a country of origin designation, the “Canada” wordmark, but our consumer research also shows that consumers don't have a high degree of interest, that it's not a big factor in their purchasing decision. It is for some of us, but not for everybody.
That's really quite interesting. I was in Farm Boy the other day, and they had two kinds of peas, snap peas and...I can't remember the other one. They came from China. There was all this other produce from the United States and from Canada, and only the peas were sold. I thought that was interesting. It was fully labelled “Product of China”.
We believe consumers want to know, when they buy a product, if it's safe. Is it the right price, and is it what I think it is? Am I buying jam or am I buying something else? Am I buying peaches or am I buying something else? They also want to know, maybe, where it comes from. Some of us, a certain segment of the consuming public, do want to know where it's come from.
Canadian food is safe. Canadian food is very safe. The system works very well. Of $110 billion worth of food produced in this country, both at the farm and in the processing industry, there were only 151 recalls last year. Imports, which represent $21 billion--what, about one-fifth?--had 95 recalls. So if imports were at the same level as what we produce domestically, we'd have 853 recalls. That says something, and I'll talk about that in a minute.
Our recommendation is this. I think you have to reward investors, both Canadian farmers and processors, the people who grow and make things in this country.
One of the things you could do is maybe improve the “Product of Canada” designation. I'm not sure, and I don't want to get into the details of percentages--what is the percentage of this, what is the percentage of that? You've got to remember that a lot of the products that are grown at farm level are also imported, such as seeds and pesticides and chemicals and things like that.
We should explore a voluntary program of “Grown in Canada”. I think that's worthwhile considering. Reward people who feel that's really important to have on their labels.
We should explore a “Canadian made” designation for things whereby you take inputs and add value to them. You import a product and add value to it. There's nothing wrong with that. A lot of those plants that buy apples or grains or whatever also use some imported inputs.
We like the country jobs and the city jobs, and a lot of my members' plants are in the rural areas as well.
I think we should level the playing field. Unregulated products right now can state “imported for” or “packed for”. What you maybe want to do in that case is add the country of origin or the country in which the product was last transformed.
When I was in Farm Boy the other day, they had crushed tomatoes. It was not a graded item and it said “made for” and some company--Cortina Foods or something like that--in Vancouver. I went to the manager of the Farm Boy store--I like Farm Boy, by the way--and said, “Where did these tomatoes come from?” “Oh, they came from Italy.” I said, “You packed them in Vancouver? You brought those tomatoes all the way from Italy to Vancouver to pack? I don't think so.” But I didn't know where they came from, so I didn't buy them.
The second area is strengthening enforcement. As I already said, there's a higher propensity for recalls of imported product. I'm not saying that all imported products are dangerous, but what I am saying is that you should increase border surveillance for finished products. We could justify our investment in inspecting Canadian plants, but we can't justify not spending at the border. The Americans got it right after 9/11.
Another area is increased store checks. I think we've got to increase store checks. I understand there are major shipments of American pork, mislabelled, being shipped in the Ottawa region this weekend. I don't know how true that is, but that's what was said. There's usually some grain of truth to these kinds of rumours. The point is, we shouldn't even have to worry about it.
We should license importers to create accountability. I can't understand how we can forget to license people doing business here. If you're making something, if you've got a plant in this country, you're registered with the CFIA, and they can hold you accountable for your mistakes, but you've got importers who can import mislabelled product, illegal product, time and time again and never be held accountable. There's no mechanism.
So I would suggest that we license importers, increase store checks, and increase border surveillance.
The conclusion I would draw here is that people's comfort level with the food they're consuming is high. The food is safe and the system works. We should be rewarding investors, the people who grow things and make things here. City jobs and country jobs are both important. Level the playing field with improved enforcement levels. Focus on the country where the product is transformed.
The Consumers' Association of Canada is pleased to have this opportunity to present its views to the committee. For over 60 years the CAC has represented the interests of ordinary Canadians in their role as consumers of goods and services, as provided by both the public and private sectors. Our mandate is to inform and educate consumers on marketplace issues, advocate for consumers with government and industry, and work to solve marketplace problems in beneficial ways.
Canadian consumers are being misled by inappropriate and inaccurate use of labels such as “Product of Canada” and “Made in Canada”. During the course of these deliberations I suggest that the committee consider these basic questions: What is the purpose of these markings? Why do we have such markings?
Consumers have two prime interests in knowing where the items they purchased were made and the source of the ingredients or components. One obviously is economic. When given a choice, many would prefer to purchase the product that has the greatest economic benefit to Canada, all other things being equal. However, this is not usually something that they think about right off the top of their mind, unless they've been prompted to do so by some promotional campaign. The other consumer interest relates to a feeling of security or safety, which is affected by knowing the source of their purchases, particularly with regard to foodstuffs.
There is no standard defining “Made in Canada” or “Product of Canada”. There are guidelines. Even though these terms are frequently used synonymously, they do have somewhat different meanings for most consumers. The situation is further confused by the use of grading terms such as “Canada Choice”.
Twenty or so years ago I managed to chair a committee of the Canadian General Standards Board, which was attempting to define “Made in Canada”. The formation of that committee was prompted by the introduction of a federal government campaign inducing consumers to buy Canadian-made products. At that time, while the group came to agreement on what elements could be considered Canadian content, based primarily on work being conducted and/or benefit to the Canadian economy, it became quite clear that it was impossible to achieve consensus on what percentage of the cost would be required to qualify for a “Made in Canada” designation. Some said 51%, while others felt it should be much higher, as high as 80% or 90%. As a result, that committee developed two standards--one defining Canadian content, how you would measure Canadian content, and the other called “Think Canadian”, which skirted the issue but allowed products to be so marked in support of the government efforts. If memory serves, it was out of this process that the phrase “substantial transformation” was developed.
I made a distinction between “made” and “product of”. The term “made” implies a manufacturing process where many things are brought together to form a new item, or that indeed a substantial transformation had taken place. However, even that can be problematic.
I have an example with respect to the “made in”. Even though we are dealing with agricultural products, there is considerable overlap in the two problems. For example, a man's tailored-to-measure suit made of cloth imported from Italy would probably qualify for “Made in Canada” under the guidelines because of the significant labour component. Certainly the cloth has been transformed. Should a distinction be made between that suit and one that has been crafted from cloth woven in Canada, probably from wool sheared from foreign sheep.
The term “product of” implies having been brought forth from, yielded from, grown. The affinity with the term “produce”, which is what we normally refer to as farm products, is clear and that is what is understood by consumers. When we are referring to foodstuffs, the expectation of a “Produced in Canada” or “Product of Canada” label is that the product was grown or raised in Canada. The concept of Canadian value-added is usually alien to consumers in this context.
Thus, it is completely inappropriate, and we submit should be illegal, to label as “Product of Canada” a can of, say, apple juice that is full of a liquid comprised of a concentrate from China to which has been added Canadian water, I guess, and that is placed in a can in Canada. The situation becomes significantly more complicated when we're dealing with a multi-ingredient product such as ice cream or indeed just about any processed food product. With a product of this type, we are starting to see a blurring of the two interests I mentioned at the start. Is there a safety or security factor, an economic issue, or neither or both?
In the interests of providing to consumers truthful, useful, and non-misleading information with respect to food products, we make the following general recommendations, recognizing that they would need more work to provide detail.
With respect to canned or packaged items containing only one or two major ingredients, if those ingredients were grown or raised in Canada and the processing and packing were done here, then the item could be labelled “Product of Canada”. If an item contains multiple ingredients that can be uniquely identified by the consumer, such as a bag of mixed vegetables, the label could state “Product of Canada” if, say, 75% or more of the weight or volume is grown or raised in Canada. Ideally, the source of the remaining percentage should also be shown.
In a blended product, such as ice cream, if the source of the major or most significant ingredient is known to be Canadian, then it could be labelled “Product of Canada”. Conversely, if the major ingredient is known to come from a specific source, consideration should be given to marking that source, and if the major ingredients come from mixed sources or if the blend varies over time, then perhaps there should be no source designation at all.
In order to avoid confusion, the terms “Canada Choice” or other similar grade designations should be replaced by a term that does not include Canada as part of that designation.
Those are my comments for the moment. I'd be pleased to try to answer any of your questions.
Thank you for the presentations, gentlemen, and the directness to the issue that we're talking about, which is “Product of Canada” designation.
Mr. Kyte, you mentioned in your remarks that there has to be a strengthening of enforcement and increased store checks. I guess I'd put it this way. We did some checking over the last few days, and there is definitely an advertising blitz on pork tenderloin at the moment in this city. It's advertised in one establishment as fresh pork tenderloin for $2.99 a pound and there's no “Product of the United States” declaration on it.
I have samples here that I'm willing to send around to the committee members, and you can have a look at them as well, but it's clearly a grade of the United States product. I have three packages of pork tenderloin here. Two are marked “Pork tenderloin U.S.”, the other isn't marked at all.
It's a blatant violation of our Meat Inspection Act, and I'd ask the parliamentary secretary to serve notice on CFIA that they should be doing those store checks, because consumers do need to be able to make a choice. I think consumers recognize we have a Canadian hog industry in disarray.
They stuck with us when we were in trouble in the meat sector in the beef industry and in fact increased consumption when we had BSE. I think consumers need to be given the opportunity to buy Canadian product and be assured they're buying Canadian product, and that labelling by quite a number of stores is, I think, hurting producers.
So I'll send these around, Mr. Chair, and you can have a look at them. You can see the difference.
Mr. Kyte, in terms of store checks, in your experience, is it a lack of human resources at CFIA, or where's the problem? I will come to “Product of Canada”, but there's no sense of having “Product of Canada” on a label if the enforcement measures by the Government of Canada are not there.
Mr. Kyte, you testified that in your opinion, consumers are not the least bit interested in product origin. You even alluded to a study that had been done. I agree with you. Just drive by any Wal-Mart store and you will see a full parking lot. Unfortunately, many people are still willing to buy products made in China or some other country, when here at home, furniture and textile workers, and perhaps even members of their own family, have lost their jobs. These shoppers do not necessarily see the importance of buying products made in Canada which although often more expensive, are also no doubt of a higher quality. But we can come back to that subject later. Some families, understandably, are also on a very tight budget and make every effort to buy goods at the lowest price possible, regardless of where they come from. People need to be educated about this issue.
I am not arguing with you about the fact that not everyone is concerned about product origin. However, because I am interested, I have noticed that quite often, when I return home after an outing, I note that the label on a product might read “Canada No. 1”, not “Product of Canada”. Basically, I realize that I have been duped. In the final analysis, marketing trumps the truth.
You mentioned a study that had been done. Do you have a copy of that study? Could it be of some use to the committee?
So then, this study was done by one of your clients, by a member of your organization. It was not released to the public. However, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture did conduct a study—and I trust its figures— which reported the following:
|[...] 80% of those surveyed felt a “Canadian Label” concept was a good/very good idea, and the most appealing aspects were its quality attributes and ease of identification.
This tells me that people want to be well informed, that they want to know the truth. That is why I am asking you and the members of your association if it would be possible to have two types of labels and to have products labelled “Product of Canada”.
Some of the testimony referred to the different percentage of ingredients in a product and to the percentage required in order to identify a product as Canadian grown. I do not believe this issue has been settled yet. Nevertheless, we need to change the current rule which stipulates that 51% of the total product must be grown in Canada in order to identify it as a product of Canada, whereas everyone knows that the jar, the liquid and the cover are all taken into consideration in this case. If the processing is done in Canada, then the product is deemed to be a product of Canada, when in fact it is not.
The second type of label could read “Processed in Canada” or “Imported into Canada” and could identify the exact origin of the product, for example, “Product of the United States” or “Product of China”. Products labelled in this manner would be on the shelves and people would be able to distinguish between home-grown products and ones that were merely processed in Canada. There would be no surprises.
Would you and the members of your organization be in favour of this labelling concept?
The Canada grade does mean something. We helped the government rewrite the processed products regulations, which were all the processed fruits and vegetable regulations. Certainly putting in a Canada Grade A rewarded farmers, because you were picking up a better pea or bean, or a better quality. You like the grade standards, because the standard inside says this is what canned corn is or this is what canned peas are, so I think you want the grade standards.
What you're saying here is that companies also may want to use “Product of Canada” or “Grown in Canada” to further illustrate a difference to their particular consumers. I think there's certainly a market. People would want to say, look, this really makes me feel good and I want to buy this; it says “Grown in Canada”--especially if there's a food-borne illness in a foreign product or anything like that.
If you put “Product of...whatever” on a package, does it change sales? I'm not sure. Look at all the canned fruit that comes in from the Philippines and from China; there's a huge consumption of the fruit bowls and the canned fruits, and it says right on there, “Product of China”. We used to make it in Canada, but I think that's going in the wrong direction.
So I don't think you can generate...just by putting a name on a product, but you might want to get into campaigns that say these are products of Canada. They're certainly doing “Buy Local”, “Buy Ontario”, “Buy B.C.”. Those kinds of programs stimulate consumption.
I'd like to jump in, please.
This is why I mentioned in my opening remarks the need to consider what the purpose of this marketing is--when we start confusing the two reasons. One is economic, and one is safety and security concerns, and I think they need to be kept separate.
There is no question in our minds that from the safety or security perspective we want to have proper, accurate, non-misleading labelling of the source of the product. That is very definite.
If we're talking about the economic benefit to Canada and to Canadians, that's a different situation and may require a slightly different solution. First, absolutely mandatory economic benefit, such as the “Think Canada” campaign that I alluded to, could perhaps be voluntary, but again, any definition of product marking to be used with such a campaign has to be clear to consumers.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Welcome, gentlemen. Thank you for coming this morning.
This phenomenon we're facing didn't happen overnight. This is something that has been evolving over a number of years. For whatever reasons, it hasn't been addressed as enthusiastically or as forcefully as it should have been, and so be it. I'm very proud that our government, especially the in December.... The very things you've been telling us this morning have been told to us since we took over government. The , with his consumer and food action plan, tried to address that and has brought out $113 million, as a matter of fact, in this action plan to do the very kinds of things you want done.
So I think we're heading in the right direction, and we've made a commitment--our government, the , even in the throne speech. Our minister has made a commitment to address these very serious issues.
Mr. Kyte, I just want a clarification. In your opening comments you mentioned that in your mind consumers want safe food, that they look at price, they look at content, and maybe they look at origin.
I don't necessarily agree that maybe they look at origin; I think Canadian consumers look at origin just about all the time. Can you explain why you think that maybe the origin of the product is not as important as some of the other things, why you feel that way?
Just to follow up on that, given an informed consumer, and if the consumer is given the facts and has a product that is relatively similar and is Canadian-made, produced here in Canada, I think probably 100% of the time every Canadian as a consumer would choose a Canadian product. That's my opinion, and we could agree to disagree on it.
Mr. Fruitman, I really like what you said. You said a couple of things that caught my attention. One is that we should increase import checks, that we should possibly increase our enforcement of “Product of Canada” labelling. We agree with that; that's why the Prime Minister has made the commitment that this government will address it. But you also said that when it comes to labelling, labelling should be truthful, which I agree with; you said it should be useful—and I agree with you, so much of the labelling that I read now is, for my needs, not particularly useful—and you said that it should be honest, and I agree with that. You also mentioned in a subsequent answer, I think to Mr. Easter, that clarity had to be involved in the labelling, that it had to be understood.
In my discussions with the minister, I've found he agrees with all that. He thinks we're going that way, and thank you for suggesting that we're on the right path. But he also thinks it should be simpler, and I guess that's what you're saying when you say it should be easily understood. It has to be, so that the average consumer who walks in doesn't have to spend a whole bunch of time understanding what the product is.
I think Mr. Easter talked about different levels of how much content there should be. I think you mentioned, Mr. Fruitman, that if there were one or two ingredients it probably should say 100%, I think, or indicate 75%-25%.
What's your thinking on that?
It had U.S. labels, which suggests that it came from the States. Regarding the one that I didn't know where it came from, I'd probably be inclined, at least in that case, to go for one of the ones that I knew where they came from, rather than the one that I didn't. If none of them had any source designation on them at all, as a consumer I'd be very confused if I was concerned about the country of origin.
Sometimes these things are not necessarily top of mind. As Mr. Kyte suggested, price usually is the first consideration. Country of origin or “product of” or any of those terms are more likely to come to mind, depending on what external factors are at play at the present time--whether there have been media reports of certain incidents, different types of things, external forces that cause the consumer to think in those terms.
I too notice, as I go through the supermarket, that I'm standing there reading labels, while many people who are under much more time pressure than I am come by and just grab it off the shelf, sometimes looking at the lowest price.
If we have labelling, then I want it to be accurate. If we don't know, then we are probably better off not having anything and then leaving it up to the consumer to decide: do I want to buy that product that I don't know anything about, or find one that I do know something about?
To our witnesses this morning, I'm very interested in your comments, many of which I very much support.
The reason we are together, of course, is to come to some understanding of terms of labelling and the practice of enforcement. I think it's becoming very clear to all of us here that the enforcement body we have, the CFIA--and perhaps others--is not doing its job, for whatever reason. Perhaps it's the fact that they don't have large numbers of people. I question that, because we know they have a high number of people working in their departments. I think some of those people could perhaps best use their energies and efforts in areas other than enforcement.
I'm also very much concerned about the fact that there seems to be no mechanism to hold the importers accountable. I think that's something we need to look at very seriously in terms of going forward, that we close that gap, because certainly there should be no product from the United States or anywhere else in the world coming into Canada that doesn't clearly indicate it's an imported product.
We have a multiplicity of logos and labels and notions of what labels mean. We do not quite have an understanding of what they mean.
I think, going forward, we need to put a clear understanding on “Product of Canada” and indicate whether it refers to the product that's in the can or in the containment of that product. It should be on the content, not on the value, because water hasn't got a lot of value, but you could put value to it artificially. I think we need to very clearly denote that it's the content. Personally, I believe it should be no less than 75%.
I believe there should also be a clear label that denotes a product being Canadian. “Canadian Grown” would be my preferred label, because you could label it with “Canadian Grown” and a maple leaf, perhaps. Those who grow products here--and “grown” is better than “Made in Canada” for food items, because we don't make food items. We manufacture, remanufacture, process, but we don't make--we grow all of the things basically that we consume.
How would you feel about a label that denotes a Canadian product being solely Canadian, maybe 98% or whatever? There is always a margin, but that item comes from Canada. That apple is grown in Canada. That piece of pork, that tenderloin, is a Canadian-grown pork product, and people know that when they buy it. They don't have to ask any other questions. They don't need to look at any other labels, because that says it all.
If we had a clear label, we could promote that as a country, as a nation. The provinces could, of course, put their own logos on, promoting their products, which I think is fair, but Canadians need to understand, and I think that's pretty simple.
When we go to the other products, then we need this “Product of Canada”, and it needs to be clearly understood that 75% of that product is a product that came from Canada.
Then you might have another submarginal indicator that says “import blended”, because there may be beans in the product and there might be 15 different things. It's pretty hard to know. It might have 10 different countries represented in that can. I don't know whether we'd use a broad term like “import blended” or something like that, but let's keep it simple. Let's give people a clear understanding when they go in--that's Canadian, and this may not be Canadian.
How do you feel about that?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for coming forward today.
I'm going to keep making this point until Mr. Wilson finally quotes me on it.
I do not make as much money as some of the members on the other side. I cannot afford to bring my lawyer to the grocery store with me every day to make sure I'm buying a grown-in-Canada or made-in-Canada product, if that's exactly what I want. As a consumer, I have a right to have that choice.
I listened to Mr. Steckle. I appreciate what he is saying about simplifying things, but then he got into submarginal and blends and adding “Canadian Grown”, which he said is made in Canada or raised in Canada.
We don't need more choices. When our consumers and our constituents go to the grocery store, they already have a dizzying array of choices laid out for them. Most of them are not legal experts who can understand the 51% aspect. This topic has been one of the most frustrating I have had, sitting here as a member of Parliament and listening to the technicalities of what is and is not a product of Canada.
I believe we need to make it simpler--absolutely--but we don't need to be introducing new labels.
Mr. Kyte, you mentioned that you like the idea of “Grown in Canada”, which would be a new label, and we would have to have a new marketing campaign to try to establish it. Can you explain to me the differences between “Product of Canada”, “Made in Canada”, “Grown in Canada”, and “Raised in Canada”? Can you explain to me the differences in those four terms?
If I were a consumer in the grocery store, walking down the aisle, I wouldn't want to. I mean, I can give you a technical rundown, but I don't think you want that right now. I get your point.
My approach here was that if a province or producers or pea growers or somebody wanted to do a grown-in-Canada type of program, why shouldn't they be able to do something that's voluntary and good for their business? If a french fry guy wants to work with his growers and develop a grown-in-Canada label, why couldn't he? It's on a voluntary basis.
You're quite right: let's clarify the “Product of Canada” aspect. I think that's worthwhile. You're right, we don't need to make things a lot more complicated.
The other thing we've got to realize is the way companies process products. I've got a member who is a huge buyer of apples. He buys all the apples he can from Ontario. Then he also buys all the apples he can in Quebec. He also has to go to upstate New York to finish off his purchases for the year. He does that on a seasonal basis. You won't want him carrying a bunch of different labels, or at least two labels--“Product of U.S.A.” and “Product of Canada”. You want to reward him for his investment.
The other thing is that one of my people makes strawberry jam. He buys all the strawberries he can in Ontario, and then, when he runs out, he needs to bring those strawberries in from some other country.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
This is in keeping with your theme of consumer friendliness. When you see the back of a package, there is no uniformity in terms of how an individual can gauge between a cup, ounce, millilitre, gram, tablespoon, solid, liquid, volume, or weight.
On any given bag of chips, on any given box of cereal, on any given breakfast bar, on something like a Triscuit, “salt-free” will have as its quantity four biscuits, while “low fat” will have it as five biscuits. The bag of chips will say that you can figure all this stuff out “per serving”, which is five potato chips. Well, I don't know anybody who just eats five potato chips, except for Mr. Bellavance. He's the only one.
A voice: And Joe Preston.
Mr. Ken Boshcoff: Oh, Joe, okay.
The other day we had someone passing around a ring of kielbasa, and the measurement—grams of fat, cholesterol, nitrates, all that stuff—was for five centimetres of kielbasa. We also had two slices of very thinly sliced ham, or two slices of bacon. The breakfast bars are in “units”—fortunately, they're not in “bites”.
Basically we have to find a way for everybody to have the same measure, so that taco chips are the same as potato chips, so that everybody can figure out exactly what they're getting.
Really the question, Mr. Chairman, is that we're trying to define and know, on any product that a human would possibly eat, how much damage you're going to do to your body by eating it, or how much good you're going to get from eating it. It's great to see grams of fat, all that kind of stuff, but it's a question of the way we have to compute it.
The only way you could do it is by measuring brand against brand and hoping they both have a five-potato-chip standard, to see what “potato chip light” will give you compared with other things. I think this quantitative standardization is very important, and it is literally all over the map. Even the same products by the same company will use different measurements.
Thank you very much. It's nice to be visiting today.
I can maybe point out, by being here only just for what we're talking about today and not having been involved in some of the other thought processes, that this is a confusing issue for consumers. It's certainly a confusing issue for parliamentarians and for where we're trying to move it.
Mr. Kyte, in your original statement, you talked a lot about how certainly there are consumers out there who have low interest in what we're talking about today. They're driven by the price tag on the shelf or the fanciness of the display or whatever it might be. But I will give to you, and I hope Mr. Fruitman will agree with me, that those who do care about it care about it very deeply. That marking of products as to what country they came from, what ingredients are in them, is very dear to those who read labels.
I don't know if you could tell, but I love to cook and I do all of my own shopping too, and love to. I've gotten very much lately into certainly watching product of origin, or where things come from. I find, as Mr. Boshcoff was saying, that certainly by measurement, by size, by type of ingredient, it's different on every label that we read. It has to be fixed. We clearly have to look at how we do this.
The other problem, of course, is that our food products are global in nature. We're buying from around the world--that's a given--and I think we always will. I think back to my youth, and there are a couple of people near my age on the committee, so I think you'll know that sometimes bananas were a treat, for example. Now, as a bit of a gourmet chef, I can buy almost any ingredient at any time because it's grown somewhere in the world and can be delivered to Canada. But I do want to know where it was grown. I do want to know where it came from. I do want to know that if it's a processed item, who processed it or what country did the processing.
I am as confused as anybody by “Made in Canada”, ”Grown in Canada”, “Product of Canada”, “Canada Grade”, or whatever else, and what they mean. As someone who's now looking to do that type of research as I shop, it's more confusing than it's maybe ever been. The “Canada Choice” or “Canada Grade” thing certainly confused people, I think, into believing that these are somehow automatically a product of Canada, when they're not.
So Mr. Kyte, I disagree with you. I love the thought and the couple of examples you gave of the fellow who's trying to buy as many Canadian apples as he can because he's a good Canadian and he wants to do that product. But I disagree that he somehow should get some sort of special thought as to his product being a “Made in Canada” product just because he couldn't find enough Canadian apples and had to add something else to it. I think it's important from a consumer point of view to know what's in there. You're right, we're going to argue about what percentages make it a “Made in Canada” thing.
Mr. Fruitman, can I get just a bit more from you from a consumer perspective? I think that's the side I'd like to err on, if we're ever going to err. What is the consumer looking for? I just read out four or five different ways of saying it was made in Canada, grown in Canada, raised in Canada, whatever you want to call it. It made me want just a little more thought from you. How do we straighten this out, from your point of view?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am honoured to meet you. One question keeps coming up and I wonder if someone may have already put it to you.
I hail from Abitibi-Témiscamingue, a partly agricultural region to the north. In the Témiscamingue region, you will find many growers and producers of local products such as honey, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackcurrant preserves.
The question I get from my constituents is why is it still possible in Canada to affix a “Made in Canada” label on beans, blueberries and honey that come from heaven knows were. I support having special regulations in place for honey.
My constituents believe that the “Product of Canada” designation should be reserved for products that are either 100% or more than 75% home-grown. As far as I am concerned, it should be reserved for products that are 100% home-grown. As for the “Made in Canada” label, it can apply to products that come from a variety of countries, provided the product is packaged and sold here in Canada.
There is a problem if a product can bear the label “Product of Canada” when in reality 50% of the product comes from elsewhere. What I am supposed to say to my regional producers? What do you suggest I say to them?
I have one more question.
Earlier, some people said that this could make the labelling process more confusing and that more choices are not what is needed. To my way of thinking, people don't need more choices, but rather clearer choices.
A number of years ago, labels did not identify product content. No other information was provided. Today, labels list the number of calories and the amount of calcium, indicate whether or not the product contains any trans fats and provides a detailed breakdown of the ingredients. Today's consumers are very well informed and read labels in order to make healthy choices. The difference is obvious when you consider the healthy selections people make at the grocery store and the choices they make when they eat out in a restaurant, which is not required to provide this information. Restaurants often promote low-calorie menu selections, but fail to provide details about other higher-fat menu items.
Regulations that call for clear labelling and content information can only benefit consumers, who can then make enlightened choices. Indeed, consumer can make healthy choices if labels clearly list all product ingredients.
Detailed labels would enable consumers to make choices that would help keep jobs in the community and support local producers and processors.
Would you agree with that statement?
I agree, but I have a couple of points.
Society continues to get more and more sophisticated, and we change the rules to accommodate people. You can go to restaurants today and you can ask if it has cheese or you can say, I'm allergic to this or that, and they can tell you, whereas they couldn't have told you when I was a kid. Is this low calorie? How many grams of fat? Many restaurants do that now just as a societal thing. You don't want an overload of information. You want the right amount of information, because I think Mr. Fruitman is right, people aren't going to spend a lot of time. They want the information quickly. You want a quick question.
You also pointed out something that's very complicated, in that 40% of the food is eaten outside of the home, in restaurants. How many of us put up our hand and ask if it's Canadian made? We don't, but I think you're right, we should be able to make the informed decision. So you can ask the restaurateur, where did the pork came from? What you're saying here is, when I buy a package, where is the pork from?