The federal government is launching a new program to crack down on food fraud, upping its investigative tools to help ensure products are indeed real.
The $24.4 million initiative, announced July 11 in Edmonton, will allow the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to increase its inspections and improve its technology to detect imported products suspected of being adulterated.
“In short, we are putting in place what Canada needs to be proactive in tackling this issue,” said federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau during a news conference at MacEwan University.
“It’s what consumers expect and what producers need. We’re confident it will help producers facing challenges with this issue, including honey producers.”
The announcement comes at a time when more fake honey is entering the market, causing Canadian prices to fall.
Fake honey, which finds its way on to store shelves, is pumped with filler, like syrups or added sugar. Some companies do it to increase profits.
The issue has caused packers in the United States to reduce the price for Canadian honey, given their assumption that all imported honey, even pure Canadian products, contains fillers.
“It’s definitely had an impact on Canadian producers,” said Rod Scarlett, executive director of the Canadian Honey Council, speaking after the funding announcement. “They assume all imported honey is fraudulent but that’s not the case.”
During the announcement, Bibeau pointed to a recent CFIA report that found all samples of Canadian honey were pure.
The report found some imported products do contain filler, and that the agency prevented 12,800 kilograms of adulterated honey, valued at $77,000, from entering the market.
Scarlett said the findings in the report can be used as a tool to show the purity of Canadian honey to U.S. packers, potentially causing the price to return to higher levels.
“We can point to the report that government put out that there was about 200 tests done and no product from Canada was found to be fraudulent,” he said.
With the CFIA upping its inspections, he hopes it will be able to catch bad actors before the problem potentially worsens.
But it isn’t just honey that is being tampered with.
Bibeau suggested some olive oil, fish, and spices may also be adulterated.
She said such products can damage the reputation of the Canadian food industry and potentially pose health risks if unlabelled allergens are in the products.
“When we’ve done consultations, people have told us they are worried. They want to get to know what they are buying,” she said.