CFIA asks public for input on labels for simulated meat

The agency considers updates to guidelines on plant-based food products that are made to resemble meat and poultry

If it looks like meat and tastes like meat, is it meat? And how should it be labelled? The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is seeking public input on the question, though its goal is a bit more nuanced than that.

It has launched an online survey, open until Dec. 3, to gauge consumer familiarity with simulated meat and poultry products and discover what label information on such products is important to them.

“The consumer perceptions of these foods will advise industry on how they can better position their products in a manner that is truthful and not misleading, as required by the regulations, and provide information that supports informed buying decisions for consumers,” the CFIA said while describing its goals relative to the food and drug regulations and the Safe Food for Canadians regulations.

Government data indicates more than 40 percent of Canadians are trying to incorporate more plant-based foods into their diets, and sales of plant-based protein products rose by seven percent in the 2016-17 fiscal year.

“Food and drug regulations require simulated meat and simulated poultry products to be clearly represented as simulated, be clearly labelled as such, and meet specific requirements for composition and fortification,” the CFIA said. 

It is considering updates to guidelines on simulated meat products fashioned to resemble actual meat and poultry, as well as plant-based proteins that don’t resemble meat, such as tofu burgers and soy patties.

Of the latter, “industry must ensure that consumers do not mistake these products for meat/poultry or simulated meat/poultry products. As such, they must be clearly labelled and/or advertised in a manner that accurately and truthfully describes the product,” current guidelines indicate.

In the survey, respondents are asked to consider whether such things as lentil burgers, simulated pork sausage and beef-flavoured vegan burgers should be required to meet vitamin and mineral nutrient standards so they are similar to burgers and sausage made from actual meat.

In a news release announcing the survey, federal agriculture minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said more clarity is needed.

“The growth in Canada’s plant-based foods industry indicates the need for clearer guidelines to better support industry in their understanding and application of regulatory requirements,” she said. “We’re working to bring that clarity, which includes a better understanding of consumers’ views and needs to allow them to make more informed food choices.”

The survey can be found here.

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