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Canada's stamp of disapproval on U.S. food labels

hildebrandt-amber-52.jpg
by Amber Hildebrandt, CBCNews.ca

With several grocery stores a mere bicycle ride away, I have the luxury of choosing one based on my moods. But often, the one that wins out is the one with the eclectic selection … and more importantly, labels on its produce declaring what country it came from. In an age of environmental awareness, I want to know whether my carrots are from Ontario and how far my peaches travelled.

In two short months, our neighbours south of the border will have that luxury. But not all Canadians are envious of the change.

Meat producers in Canada are worried discriminating customers in the U.S. will turn away from their products in favour of local. Plus, they will have to pay a hefty price to conform to the new rules by placing stickers, tags or other labels on their products.

Government estimates put the cost of the so-called COOL (Country of origin labeling) initiative around $2.5 billion the first year and $499 million in maintenance subsequent years.

While consumers are likely to see their food prices rise a few cents as retailers pass on costs, producers are among those likely to shoulder a chunk of the cost, with the department estimating the average U.S. producer will likely fork over $376 a year to label their products. No word on importers.

As a consumer, I'd like Canada to consider such labels. But what's good for the consumer is not always good for the farmer.

And a few local purchases here at home could never make up for the sales for Canadian producers worth billions of dollars in the U.S.

So, I'm torn. Should producers be shouldering part of the bill for country-of-origin labels? And is it worth it to see such labels here at home?

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Comments

CathyB

Muskoka

When I go to the butcher shop or grocery store I always ask where the meat or fish is from. Also, our family buys half a cow directly from a farmer, We pay to butcher it and it ends up costing us less than $2.00 lb.

Posted August 6, 2008 01:00 PM

Magoo

Vancouver

It's a good idea, the consumer should be able to sue the producer and his agents for tainted food without excessive research. What's more, 'Canadian Bacon', for example, indicates quality to a US consumer.

Posted August 6, 2008 05:01 PM

sheri

Montreal

COOL labelling is a very good idea - In fact, I'm surprised the author of this article has not spent as much time relaying the benefits of COOL labelling - she seems to prefer defending the interests of producers.

Here in Quebec, there is a particular emphasis on buying products (especially food) as locally as possible, both because it supports local producers and also because it decreases our energy footprint. Labelling can be a remarkable differentiator as well. Would you, as a consumer buy talapia farmed in Canada or farmed in China? I think I would choose Canadian first in a heart beat, even if it cost a little bit more!

So producers, please quit your wining, add an extra line or two to your labels and believe me, I won't mind paying the two extra cents if it means I know I'm supporting local.

Consumers really do read the labels and try to buy local wherever possible - Producers should realize this as an important advantage that will actually increase local sales, far outweighing any losses elsewhere...

Posted August 7, 2008 07:40 AM

Graham

London

If buying local is environmentally important for us to do, then why is it not important for the Yanks. Carbon burning trucks go both ways.

Posted August 8, 2008 01:27 PM

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From trends and culture to politics and nutrition, Food Bytes serves up tasty tidbits about food and the issues surrounding it that flavour our everyday lives.

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Amber Hildebrandt Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.

Andrea Chiu Andrea Chiu is an associate producer at CBC Radio Digital. Though she loves to eat, cook and discuss food, don't ask her to bake. It never turns out well. She tweets as @TOfoodie on Twitter and organizes food and wine events in Toronto called FoodieMeet.

Tara Kimura Tara Kimura is the consumer life reporter for CBCNews.ca, covering a wide range of issues that range from rising food costs and the growing organic movement, to new trends in the marketplace.

Andree Lau Andree Lau is a CBC web reporter in Calgary. Her journalism career includes seven years as a CBC-TV reporter. Her own blog called "are you gonna eat that?" chronicles her eating adventures (including sampling snake and camel hoof tendon).

Jessica Wong Jessica Wong is a CBCNews.ca writer who loves to eat and cook, as well as discuss, read and watch programming about food, sometimes all at once.

Kevin Yarr Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca's writer in Prince Edward Island, wrote about food and beer for national and regional magazines before joining the CBC. He acquired a desire for new tastes on his first trip to Europe, and an appreciation of eating locally and in season when he finally settled down on P.E.I.

Elizabeth Bridge Elizabeth Bridge is a writer with the CBC Digital Archives in Toronto. She first ventured into the kitchen as a child to indulge a sweet tooth by baking cookies and making fudge. A student budget compelled her to be a vegetarian (for a while) and instilled in her an ongoing curiosity about food and cooking.

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