Product of Canada, eh?

November 9 2007 by Ellen Roseman

That’s the name of a CBC Marketplace show, which emphasized the fact that you’re not really eating local even when you think you are. Anything can be labelled as Product of Canada as long as 51 per cent of its input cost was spent in Canada.

Don’t believe me? Here’s the information at the Competition Bureau’s website. Look under General Requirements.

With heightened awareness of health and concerns about imported food, it would be nice to know where the ingredients come from. Right now, all we know is that foods from across the globe can be processed here and labelled as domestic.

Some people thought this was outrageous. Others recognized that accurate labelling could be very long and complicated (but that’s no reason not to do it).

16 comments

  1. Andy

    Nov 9 2007

    I saw the Marketplace program. I remember one product: no name garlic in a jar. You don’t have to be a super shopper to imagine that the garlic could come from anywhere, regardless of the label. I think, in fact, it came from China. Do I ever buy this stuff? No. I buy fresh garlic from my local fruit and vegetable store, where it’s labelled as “Ontario”. In the summer, I buy it from a local farmer’s market from a vendor who identifies him/herself as a farmer from somewhere near Toronto.

    I know that the shrimp I buy is likely from Bangladesh or somewhere in Asia where they flood the coastal plains with salt water to grow the shrimp. Does it ever come from the Maritimes or the Pacific? Not likely, unless it’s about $40 a kilo.

    Scallops? Anyone who has eaten a scallop fresh from the Bay of Fundy would spurn the factory scallops at a grocery store. Especially when they’re treated with a water absorbing product that increases the water content and, by the way, the weight – they are sold by the kilo.

    So, caveat emptor. Easy for me to say as a well-paid income earner. Not so easy for someone who is trying to be frugal. I guess the solution is to change the “product of” labelling requirements. Say hello to the grocery lobby!

  2. brad

    Nov 12 2007

    This is a big complicated topic. iTunes U has an interesting talk by Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, where he explains that Patagonia has its clothes sewn in China because, in fact, that’s where they can get the best quality workers for that job, not because that’s where it’s cheapest. They’ve tried to have clothes made in the US but couldn’t achieve the same quality, and their first priority is to make the very best clothing possible.

    But he thinks all this will change as the costs of transportation fuel start to rise, which will make it uneconomical to ship clothes all over the world in various stages of their manufacturing process. Still, the economics of making affordable clothing in North America are pretty grim. Here in Quebec, we have Kanuk making winter coats at their factory in Montreal; their price is nearly double what you’d pay for a similar coat from Patagonia (which is already expensive) and you don’t get the same quality of design or construction. I’m not sure “buy Canadian” is always a good idea.

    Similarly with food, can our resources really support all of us eating Canadian-sourced foods? Do we want to clear more land for agriculture or put more pressure on our already depleted fisheries? Not easy questions to answer, but I worry that consumers will have a knee-jerk reaction to “buy Canadian” without thinking about all the subtleties.

  3. Ric

    Jan 11 2008

    Just bought some salmon from Real Canadian Superstore two days ago. It said “Made in Canada” on the label. I decided to follow up with the company (Sea Quest) to find out if this was true. As there was NO information on the container except that it was packaged to Loblaws, I called them up to get the name of the supplier. I was was told that this was confidential corporate information and they would not tell me who supplies them with this product.

    Today I will return the product.

    Frankly, I wonder how stupid Canadian consumers are when they buy such stuff without knowing or at least checking where the product is from. Of course, when you see the number of consumers who line up to buy dangerous, defective and possibly lethal Chinese toys at Xmas, I guess we deserve all we get.

  4. Dave McFarlane

    Feb 25 2008

    Ellen. I reside just east of T.O, born in the Maritimes. Where can I buy fresh fish caught in our cold Atlantic waters?
    Thanks
    Dave

  5. margaret macdonald

    May 29 2009

    Ellen, I too was born in the Maritimes and live just east of Toronto. Where can I buy fresh and frozen fish that was caught in Canadian water.
    Appreciate any info you could give me on this
    Thanks
    Marg

  6. CS

    Aug 15 2010

    This was taken from High Liner’s website. Apparently they’re not even pretending to claim that it was caught in Canada’s waters….

    ——————————————————-
    Bringing the World to Your Table

    Founded in 1899 in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, High Liner Foods has a long history of delivering superior quality seafood products to customers, just like you, across North America.

    Today, we are one of North America’s largest marketers of seafood products, employing more than 900 Canadian citizens from coast to coast.

    We’ve seen more than a century of innovation and growth at High Liner, but one thing hasn’t changed: our commitment to providing you with the highest standard of quality in every product we sell.

    We take great pride in providing variety and new exciting taste experiences for you. This requires sourcing from Canadian waters and the global market with partner fisheries in a variety of different countries.

    By accessing the wide variety of fish and seafood available on the world market, we are able to offer you exciting choices of new and emerging species.

  7. cristineG

    Sep 24 2012

    I agree for more info on labels. Not too long ago I read about a shipment of shrimp farmed in China which had 10x the usual amt of penicillin in it… this brought to mind a few things

    1. there actually is a acceptable amt of penicillin?
    2. what is the amt acceptable?
    3. what about people allergic to penicillin?
    4. are many seafood allergies actually anti-biotic allergic reactions?
    5. where are they farming this, that they need so much penicillin? a sewer?
    6. so now shrimp is another source of antibiotic resistant bacterias??

    This is my main worry about where my fish comes from. I embrace eating local but more interested in eating product without antibiotics, hormones, growth factors, etc…