Canada’s dairy farmers and Ottawa are both smiling after a federal Appeal Court upheld regulations requiring cheese to be made from fluid milk and not other milk products.
“We are pleased that the Federal Court of Appeal has upheld the authority of the federal government to set compositional standards,” Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in a statement following the Feb. 28 ruling.
“Canadians expect cheese to be made of real milk and this decision will ensure it is.”
The ruling assures consumers the cheese they buy in the store is the real thing, added Therese Beaulieu, a Dairy Farmers of Canada spokesperson.
“If people are disappointed in a product, then they stop buying the product,” Beaulieu said. “Turning away from cheese is not something that we want.”
The Appeal Court upheld a 2009 lower court ruling in favour of federal regulations on compositional standards for cheese adopted in 2008.
The regulations require that cheese either imported into Canada or made here must contain a certain percentage of casein content derived from fluid milk and not from other products such as whey cream or milk powder. Also, the ratio of whey protein to casein must not exceed the ratio in milk itself.
Kraft Canada and Saputo had challenged the regulations in court. They argued requiring additional milk in cheese would result in increased costs to processors while giving windfall profits to dairy farmers.
A federal economic analysis suggested processors would pay $71.5 million more a year for cheese ingredients and dairy producers would receive $185.7 million more from additional milk sales.
Kraft and Saputo argued the federal government adopted the regulations “for an improper economic purpose” and therefore went beyond its authority.
The Appeal Court unanimously rejected the companies’ arguments.
Writing for the court, Justice Robert Mainville said product standards usually affect how the product is made but that does not mean they are aimed at influencing production.
“To decide otherwise would result in the absurd proposition that no federal compositional standards could be adopted for food products marketed for import, export or interprovincial trade, since almost all such standards affect the production of food products,” Mainville wrote.
The companies have 90 days to decide whether to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. A spokesperson for Saputo said her company was weighing its options.
She emphasized Saputo has always complied with the compositional standards even though it disagrees with them. [email protected]