Standards for Cheese in Canada

Process

The Canadian government published the regulations for compositional standards for cheeses in Canada on December 26, 2007. The revised regulations came into force on December 13, 2008. These regulations ensure Canadians continue to enjoy the benefits they have come to expect and love from cheese. Consumers can be assured that the attributes they value in different varieties of cheeses will be present and distinguishable in the named cheese.

Court Challenge

In the fall of 2008, Kraft, Saputo and Parmalat applied to the Federal Court to challenge the new standards published by the Government of Canada. The case was heard in March 2009. In October, the Federal Court ruled the Government of Canada was indeed entitled to make such changes to its federal standards. In November, Kraft and Saputo chose to appeal the ruling. On February 28, 2011, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the federal government had a role to play in establishing national compositional standards. The cheese standards remain therefore in place.

Background

Canada’s regulation identifies standards for some 50 Canadian cheeses (specific names or types identified) in the Food and Drug Regulations. This regulation identified several "milk ingredients" for cheese-making. However, the Canadian Agricultural Products Act (Dairy Product Regulations) used different wording (“milk solids”) to describe ingredients allowed in cheese-making.

The situation had created ambiguity about what can be used in making cheese. This is why the government published the new standards for cheese in Canada after the Minister of Agriculture announced it had mandated CFIA to work on new Canadian standards. This is important for consumers because the properties of specific popular cheeses in Canada can be altered when their composition is changed. Technological advances in food ingredient design and the use of various new dairy ingredients are no excuse to prevent consumers from being able to recognize the characteristics of Canadian cheeses they know and love.

The revised standards provide a basic recipe for cheeses and allow room for innovation.
According to CFIA, the new regulations:

  • Harmonize existing federal regulations;
  • Enhance consumer interests by reflecting the tradition of cheese making;
  • Allow for technological advances in cheese production; and
  • Provide for consistency with certain international food standards as appropriate.

Other countries have standards for cheese and Canada has over 335 standards for various foods, from ketchup to cheese. The new cheese regulations are similar to the cheese regulations of France. Current U.S. regulations require that cheese be made of milk and/or cream. Europe’s regulations also define specific manufacturing processes for a number of cheeses.

DFC views

  • Dairy Farmers of Canada supports the goal to protect the integrity of Canadian cheeses so they live up to consumer expectations. For example, a Cheddar cheese must be made mostly from milk and have certain characteristics that create its identity and distinguish this type from other types of cheeses.
  • DFC welcomes standards that ensure consistency and integrity of all cheeses, which will serve to reinforce consumer confidence in Canadian cheeses and lead to growth in the dairy industry.
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