Container regulation change angers food processors

A coalition of food processors and farm groups is protesting a federal plan to no longer require standard-size packages.

New rules mean American food producers will no longer have to use Canadian-size packages and that will give some of them an advantage in the grocery store aisle, said Chris Kyte, president of the Food Processors of Canada.

“Right now, standard packaging allows Canadians to do accurate price comparison shopping,” he said. “American package sizes tend to be smaller which may initially create the impression of better value at a lower price, but that is frequently not the case.”

The change, announced in this year’s budget, will “over time, put food processing and agricultural jobs at risk,” said Kyte.

Kyte slammed the government for making the change without consultation and predicted it will have a major impact. He pointed to the decision to close a Christie cookie plant in Toronto and move most of its production to Mexico and the U.S.

“This will throw 550 people out of work and will accelerate Canada’s $6.5-billion food trade deficit with the United States,” he said. “In the last five years, more than 80 food-processing plants in Canada have closed, with many moving production to larger American plants and those in Mexico.”

Producers and processors of honey, wine, meats, maple syrup, canned fruit and vegetable products will be impacted, with apple and potato farmers especially vulnerable, he said.

The government has refused to consider phasing in the change to give producers and processors an opportunity to adjust, or to provide compensation for plants which have to retool. In the budget, the government said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency would move away from non-food-safety-related activities. That meant it would no longer enforce the container regulations.

The Food Processors of Canada counts numerous commodities groups and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture among its members.

The Food and Consumer Products Council of Canada hasn’t taken a position because its membership is divided on the issue.

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