What’s in our food?

The use of dairy terms on products that do not contain any dairy

The misuse of dairy terms and images on food labels gives consumers the incorrect impression that imitation products and foods that do not contain dairy ingredients have the nutritional benefits of dairy products.

For example:

  • There is no butter in most store-bought butter tarts… Maybe sugar tarts would be a more accurate name!
  • It is not always butter used in Butterball turkey – it’s the brand name, not an ingredient!

Dairy producers are asking for clearer federal labelling legislation for dairy products. Substitute and imitation products that contain, for example, a mix of butter and vegetable oil must have clear labelling so consumers do not think they are buying a dairy product when they buy a substitute!

Where does this food come from?

In the spring of 2008, DFC presented its supportive comments on the use of "Product of Canada" during the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture's study of the matter, and through the Government of Canada's consultation on the Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan. The government was proposing to modernize guidelines and the proposals were in line with DFC's long standing advocacy for "truth in labelling".

In July 2008, the government announced the new "Product of Canada" and "Made in Canada" food labelling guidelines to take effect on December 31, 2008. These new guidelines propose that:

  • A "Product of Canada" label may be used for those products where "all or virtually all" of the content of the food product are Canadian.
  • Products manufactured or processed in Canada with ingredients that are imported or domestic, of which the last substantial transformation has occured in Canada, can use either "Made in Canada from domestic and imported ingredients" or "Made in Canada from imported ingredients".
  • Other statements or claims may be used (on condition that they remain truthful and not misleading for consumers) such as "Processed in Canada", "Packaged in Canada", "Roasted in Canada", etc.

Of note, the government indicated that "virtually all" of the Canadian content of the food means about 98 per cent to allow for flavours and spices. As chocolate milk is a processed product containing more than two per cent of imported ingredients, the label can read "contains Canadian milk" but not "Product of Canada".

During the same time, DFC was considering rebranding Canadian dairy products. The new “100% Canadian milk” symbol indicates to consumers that the milk and/or dairy ingredients in the food product consumers buy come from Canada. To take the example of chocolate milk again, while it is not a “Product of Canada” as a whole, when the milk in it comes from Canada, the “100% Canadian milk” symbol can be affixed on the product.

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