Some Ottawa shoppers are rushing to stores that sell popular British foods such as Marmite and Irn-Bru, which contain some ingredients that are banned in Canada.
Earlier this week, a Saskatoon store owner said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency notified him that some ingredients in the products he sold were banned in Canada.
Irn-Bru, a Scottish caffeinated soft drink, contains the food colouring Ponceau 4R, which is not on Canada’s approved list of food additives. Marmite, Ovaltine and some other products are enriched with vitamins and minerals so they’re illegal as well.
In a statement, the CFIA said that while those products are not allowed, it did not remove them from store shelves because they don't pose a health risk to consumers.
Michael Cox, who has owned the Scottish and Irish Store in Ottawa's west end for 10 years, said he hasn’t had any shipments denied by customs. He did say losing these products would be a blow to his business.
'It's significant,' business owner says
"We have lots of expats of Irish or British descent, people grew up with their parents or who have visited overseas, people from different Commonwealth countries, we have lots of people who come in for British foods," Cox said.
"It's significant in the way that they are very popular items. ... Every time you build up your business based on what people are looking for, if you start pulling those items out, it hurts because there's less things to draw people in. They're looking for these particular items they've been eating for many, many years, and all of a sudden they've been told, 'You can't have it any more.'"
Customer Brenda Greenan said she'd be "devastated" if they pulled items like Irn-Bru off the shelves.
"There's an awful lot of things in food that we're not allowed to have, but we do it anyway," she said. "I think they [the CFIA] have a lot more to do than worry about a can of Irn-Bru. There's a lot more to investigate, honestly."
Customer Alan Ludlow agreed.
"It's nuts," he said. "I think The Independent in the UK said, what is wrong with Canada? They sell guns and they won't sell Marmite? I think that about covers it."
Irn-Bru maker A.G. Barr said on its website that the company is working to replace the food colouring to bring the product in line with CFIA guidelines.
The company assures the public the colouring is safe.