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Bread price-fixing, dairy industry make top 2018 food stories: Charlebois

What food stories do you remember from 2018? A food researcher gives his top picks.

Sylvain Charlebois expects cannabis edibles to dominate headlines next year

Sylvain Charlebois researches food security at Dalhousie University in Halifax. (Dalhousie University)

A lot happened in 2018 food-wise, from E. Coli outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce to dairy supply management problems.

Sylvain Charlebois, who researches food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University, gave his two cents on the food stories that dominated this year.

Even though the story came out at the end of 2017, Charlebois points to bread price-fixing as something that dominated headlines in the beginning of the year.

However, he thinks there wasn't a whole lot of attention given to the matter aside from the $25 gift card offered to consumers.

Another one on Charlebois's list is Maple Leaf Foods' decision to build a $660-million facility in London.

Maple Leaf Foods is expected to open the new facility in 2021. (CBC)

"A lot of people underappreciate how significant these decisions are," he said.

"In the U.S., over the last decade, they were able to build almost 4,000 brand-new food processing plants and we've barely seen about 20 in Canada during the same period."

While there's good news there, Charlebois said dairy farmers are feeling a bit nervous with the new trade deals signed recently.

"We need to find supply and management 2.0," said Charlebois.

According to Charlebois, the supply and management system set in place for dairy only accounts for producing enough products for the domestic demand. Now that "we're allowing more products into the Canadian market," he said an imbalance is created.

U.S. health officials have traced a dangerous bacterial outbreak in romaine lettuce to at least one farm in central California. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

Romaine lettuce was also on top of people's minds a few times with E. Coli outbreaks linked to produce originating from Arizona and California. Charlebois said people can expect more of these types of problems because of "global food supply chains."

However, even if that happens, Charlebois said the outbreaks have been contained very quickly.

Moving into 2019, he anticipates the federal election will make things interesting because the new NAFTA hasn't been ratified yet, where concessions in dairy were made.

"We're going to see a new food guide for the first time in more than a decade," he said. "Edibles will become legal in Canada, so that's another interesting story in the food industry over the next little while."

With files from Afternoon Drive

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