Thursday, August 17, 2017

No more backroom deals on Food Guide

There will be no private backroom deals when it comes to writing the new Canada Food Guide, say officials at Health Canada.

They also say decisions will be based on the best science available, not less respected tests put forward by special interest organizations.

The process of writing a new Canada Food Guide has been fraught in the past by intense lobbying, including farm commodity associations both promoting and defending inclusion of their products.

The beef, pork, egg and milk associations have been on the defensive. The fresh fruits and vegetables associations have been gaining ground because they have had strong support from nutritionists and health advocates.

Health Canada said it will no longer be meeting privately with lobbying associations and commodity organizations.

What they have to say to the Food Guide writers will be said in public.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Doering outlines CFIA mandate

Ron Doering, the first president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, says it has two chief mandates – to ensure food is safe for consumers and to promote Canada’s food industry.

He says they work together because when Canada can demonstrate that it has safe food, its global reputation is solid and companies are able to export.

He says that when he was recently invited to speak to a convention of food-industry people, they told him the CFIA no longer cares about promoting the industry.

Since it moved to Health Canada, inspectors seem to care only about food safety, he says they told him. He comments about this in a column he writes for Food In Canada.

Would that the CFIA actually did a good job of fulfilling its foremost mandate.

However, as we learned in a court case about a cheating veterinarian, thousands of fraudulent Holstein embryos moved into international markets, seriously tarnishing the Canadian industry.

And more recently, we read that the United States Department of Agriculture found “systemic failures” in Canada’s meat inspection system.

That’s the most serious shortcoming ever identified by American inspectors who have been checking Canadian meat-packing plants for at least 40 years.

And when Doering was president, the Americans were finding fault – confirmed by on-site Canadian inspectors – when they toured Canadian food plants.

The Canadian brass on those tours had to concede that what the Americans identified were, indeed, failures to comply with Canadian standards.

From my perspective, I think Health Canada may have finally put the priority for meat inspectors in the right place.

It’s up to the companies to develop their reputations.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

U.S. milk producers angered by Freeland

The National Milk Producers Association in the United States levelled a broadside against Global Affairs Minister Christia Freeland on the eve of the beginning of the negotiations to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Freeland said this week that she intends to retain supply management for Canada’s dairy and poultry industries.

The National Milk Producers Association says that’s heading in the opposite direction from most countries, including the U.S., which are reducing their government supports for their dairy industries.

It is particularly upset that the Canadian milk marketing boards have set up a new Category 7 to price milk low enough to displace imports of diafiltered milk.

The Americans say that has sharply increased Canada’s supply of skim milk powder and its exports.
The U.S. has already served notice that it intends to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization about the skim milk powder exports.

It earlier won a similar complaint about Canadian export, successfully arguing that they were only possible because Canadians can cross-subsidize the low-priced products from the high prices they receive for most milk.

Here’s what the association said:

“For too long, Canada has relied on government controls on farm milk production to boost prices, while minimizing dairy imports to limit competition. By comparison, the United States has slashed its government involvement in dairy markets, and relies on exporting its products to global customers to a greater degree than ever before.

“That’s why the United States and other major dairy exporting nations, including Mexico and Argentina, are so upset with Canada’s latest Class 7 pricing scheme that is designed to undercut world market prices and unfairly dump Canada’s surplus milk at the expense of the United States and other exporters. 

"Ironically, Canada’s so-called ‘supply management’ system is failing to manage supply. Despite having no domestic market for more milk solids, the government there has sharply increased farm level production quotas, resulting in an accompanying spike of almost 300 percent in Canadian milk powder exports in 2017 so far. 

"These exports are only made possible because Canada manipulates domestic pricing through the Class 7 subsidy scheme.”

A test for embryo viability

Panveesh Madan, a researcher at the University of Guelph, says he is close to developing a test for the viability of embryos for transplanting.

While the immediate practical application would be for cattle, Madan believes the technology could later be applied to human embryos.

CFIA searching for DNA tests

The CFIA is searching for DNA tests which could dramatically decrease the average three years it takes to import fruit-tree and strawberry plants for plant breeding purposes.

Strawberry plants, for example, now need to be tested to ensure they are free
 from a number of viruses.

Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay announced this week that the CFIA will be given $500,000 to research DNA tests.

Metro says minimum wage hike to cost $50 million

Metro Inc. says Ontario and Alberta plans to hike the minimum wage to $15 an hour will cost it $45 to $50 million.

Chief executive officer Eric La Fleche said Metro will try to offset the increase by cutting costs, but said it may not be enough and it may have to increase prices.

He said it’s not a Metro, but an industry-wide issue.

Earlier Galen Weston, chief executive officer of Loblaws Companies, said the increase will cost his company about $197 million.

That drew criticism from a number of quarters, most people noting that Loblaws’ profits have steadily increased and that Weston has a generous pay package.

It would be nice if Loblaws and Metro would say how many employees will be better off because of  the increase.
The company also reported higher revenues and profits for the most recent quarter that ended July 1 - profit of $183-million compared with $176.5-million a year ago and sales of $4.07 billion compared with $4.01 billion last year.

All of the sales increase came from opening new stores because same-store sales declined by two-tenths of one per cent.