Ag minister defends deregulation of food packaging

Canada's Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz is defending his government decision to deregulate food packaging.

Gerry Ritz says deregulation decision made to give consumers more choice

Gerry Ritz called regulated food packaging a non-tariff trade barrier that needs to be removed. (Canadian Press File Photo)

Canada's Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz is defending his government's decision to deregulate food packaging.

The proposal is part of the omnibus budget bill.

Ritz said food safety will be improved because less time will be spent chasing minor packing infractions.

Food packaging size is currently monitored by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, under the Ministry of Agriculture.

Ritz said officials "spend more time than you'd think" enforcing the sizes.

"We’ll spend days chasing down a honey container that is a half an ounce out. And the quality of the product is never suspect inside the container," Ritz said. "We need to focus our resources on food safety."

Another "intended effect" of the change is to "give consumers more choice," according to Ritz.

Removing what Ritz called "a non-tariff trade barrier" would allow more product and more sizes into Canada from the U.S. It would also mean, he said, more fresh fruit and vegetables year-round.

"It gives consumers the ability to pick and choose what is in their own best interest. You’ll buy containers according to your needs," Ritz said. "There are no boundaries when it comes to manufacturers and food processing in North America. It’s a very much integrated market and we’re seeking to enhance that."

Ritz is confident that Canadian food producers will not be hurt by competition from foreign companies.

He said transportation costs and consumers who want to buy food made and processed in Canada will keep the country's food processing sector healthy.

"Canadian consumers very much want to support Canadian grown product," he claimed. "We find when we do trials, which we've done across Canada, is that you get that Canadian product right there at the end of the bunk, promote it as Canadian product,  and it just literally flies off the shelves. So I'm not concerned about Canadian consumers rebuffing Canadian content. We just have to be smarter and market it that way."