July 6, 2009
Canada's beef labelling may be misleading
The recall of beef products from JBS Swift Beef Co. in Canada has led to a discovery that a Canadian label does not necessarily mean it's a local product.
Aside from the JBS beef products, which is linked to at least 18 illnesses in numerous US states, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in recent weeks has also recalled several food products ranging from pistachio to salad greens to food made with peanut products.
These revealed that some fresh meat products sold by Canadian companies actually originate in the US, and the recall has prompted questions about sources of meat sold in Canadian grocery stores and whether consumers have the right to know the product's origin.
Current regulations do not require meat companies to name the product's country of origin on the label, according to industry experts.
Industry experts said while Canadian farmers are first choice for meat supply, meat companies turn to US suppliers when demand typically peaks during summer.
The animals may not originate from Canada, but they were processed there, said an expert.
Dennis Laycraft, executive vice president of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, said meat products sold in Canada must meet rigorous quality and safety standards regardless of their origin.
Laycraft said there are some companies that may choose to label their products as Canadian to gain market advantage.
In addition to supporting the local economy, many consumers believe that purchasing items directly from the farmer will lead to a fresher, less processed and safer product.
Canada so far has not reported any illnesses in connection with JBS beef products.