Ottawa Taking Action On Fish Labelling Fraud With Enhanced Species Substitution Surveillance

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Ottawa: The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is addressing the issue of food fraud so Canadians can be confident that the food they buy is accurately represented.

As part of the Government of Canada’s work to tackle food fraud, the CFIA sampled and tested fish from domestic processors, importers, and retail establishments across Canada.

According to the enhanced fish species substitution surveillance (2019 to 2020) report, CFIA’s testing shows 92% of fish samples taken were satisfactorily labelled with proper common names. Nine species of fish were targeted based on their likelihood to be mislabelled or substituted and their availability in the Canadian marketplace, including: butterfish, cod, halibut, kingfish, sea bass, snapper (red and other), sole, tuna and yellowtail.

The CFIA took appropriate actions on all unsatisfactory results. This included enforcement actions, such as letters of noncompliance, product seizure and detention, relabelling to bring the product into compliance, and product disposal.

Industry is responsible for properly labelling fish and seafood and providing consumers with information that is neither false nor misleading. Accurate labelling supports the traceability of food. Under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations traceability requirements are included.

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The ability to track food through the supply chain can speed up the removal of unsafe or misrepresented food from the market and better protect Canadians.

The Government of Canada is currently working with stakeholders to identify approaches to fulfill the Minister of Health’s mandate commitment to develop a boat-to-plate traceability program for fish products in Canada.

Under the Food Policy for Canada, launched in June 2019, the Government of Canada invested $24.4 million over 5 years to the CFIA to tackle food fraud in order to protect consumers from deception and companies from unfair market competition.

With this funding, the CFIA is conducting inspections, collecting samples, testing foods for authenticity, and gathering intelligence to better target its oversight activities.

By addressing food fraud, Canadians can be confident that the foods they purchase are properly labelled and safe to consume.

It also helps Canadian businesses compete more fairly in the Canadian and global marketplace.

Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, said: “Tackling food fraud is a key priority of the Food Policy for Canada which our government launched last year. It will not only protect consumers from buying deliberately mislabeled products, but also Canadian food businesses who must compete with inauthentic products. That’s why we are taking action and cracking down on incidents of food fraud in Canada.”

Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, said: “Canada is known for world-class fish and seafood products. The continued success of this sector depends on fair market practices and the utmost transparency of production. The actions we are taking with industry to strengthen traceability and fight fish fraud will ensure our hard-working Canadian fish harvesters and processors can continue to get the maximum value for their world-class product.”

Paul Lansbergen, President, Fisheries Council of Canada, added: “This report confirms the high level of compliance from the seafood industry in Canada’s well-managed food supply chain. As always, Canadians can be confident when purchasing seafood from their local retailer.”

• Canadian food laws prohibit food sold in Canada from being misrepresented, including through labelling, packaging, advertising and selling. Mislabelling and substitution can be a form of food fraud which deceives the consumer and food businesses with false or misleading information and creates an unfair market for businesses that sell accurately represented food.

• The Minister of Health’s 2019 mandate letter introduced a commitment to develop a boat to-plate traceability program to help Canadian fishers better market their high-quality products.

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