March 12, 2004 (37th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Mario Laframboise

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Mario Laframboise (Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-340 after the speech the parliamentary secretary just delivered.
I can appreciate that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency wants to label all food across Canada, I have no problem with that, but this bill is seeking to legislate one of the oldest products around. We have all consumed milk in our lives; I think milk is one of the sources of life. We are not talking about just any product.
I would say to the parliamentary secretary that there are so many stakeholders in the entire food chain, so many producers and ways of doing things that these days, butter is no longer butter, milk is no longer milk and cheese is no longer cheese. That is the reality. The only thing the dairy industry wants is to say that milk is milk, cream is cream and cheese is cheese. It is easy to understand. Let us get this in writing and require all producers in Canada, all those who want to sell products, to comply with the regulations. The bill is straightforward.
I support the parliamentary secretary and the government in their desire to see all foods labelled in Canada. But there is one obvious instance. The dairy industry spends $75 million annually in order to get milk back to being milk, butter back to butter, and cheese to cheese. These efforts are all being undone by the industries that make use of substitutes, often chemical in nature, to give the same taste. It is as simple as that.
The bill is straightforward. Its purpose is set out in clause 3:

The purpose of this Act is to ensure that food is described or presented in such a manner as to ensure the correct use of dairy terms intended for milk and milk products, to protect consumers from being confused or misled and to ensure fair practices in the food trade.

Quite simply, it is a matter of keeping milk as milk, cream as cream, butter as butter.
As for the application:

This Act applies to all food marketed for human consumption in Canada.

In other words, anyone wishing to use dairy terms must have dairy products. It is as simple as that.
Then there is the prohibition, because obviously the purpose of the act is to prohibit something:

No person shall manufacture, offer for sale, sell, market or advertise for sale any food to which this Act applies, if it is described in amanner contrary to this Act.

People may make statements here in the House, but if someone claims to have buttered popcorn and there is no butter on it, I have a problem with that, as most other people would.
A survey was carried out in Quebec by the Union des producteurs agricoles which showed that the majority of Quebeckers expect to find dairy products in something using the words “milk”, “cream” or “butter”. That is something everyone expects.
Nevertheless, companies decide to save money by trying to achieve the same taste with derivatives and chemical products. That is a reality. Why does the government not want to get involved in this regulation today? To protect the segment of the food industry that is using improper terms to make money. It is as simple as that.
Clearly, the Bloc Quebecois is completely opposed to this. There are farmers who are currently fighting for survival, given all the problems they face. All this bill is asking the government to do is set restrictions on these things. In other words, restrict industry from using dairy terms for products that are not dairy products.
There is no cost to anyone. It is solely a bill that we, as legislators, can vote on in the House.
Part of what members do is make laws. It is hard to understand that today the Liberal government, through the parliamentary secretary, has just stated that we would have to wait until the Canadian Food Inspection Agency passes legislation on labelling for all products in Canada. I have a problem with this. This means that this issue will never be resolved because it will take years.
A Liberal colleague made a suggestion earlier. This bill, which targets a specific type of product, dairy products, needs to go to committee for consideration and consultation with the industry stakeholders. They can come tell us why we should not do this.
I want to give an example, because we know that one of the major problems is that producers and often processors will use a term, such as “ice cream”, when no cream is used. Often, milk is used. So, it is ice milk, not ice cream.
Furthermore, chemicals are frequently used to make ice cream, so it really is not ice cream at all. Many people listening think that when they eat ice cream they are eating cream. But they are not.
All we want is to ensure that the product label and advertising reflect the ingredients used to produce that product. It is as simple as that. That is the aim of this bill.
To this end, there are even some exceptions allowed. For the benefit of everyone listening, I am referring to clause 6(8). Exceptions include all generally recognized products, such as peanut butter.
Why do we call it “butter? It is because it has the texture of butter. No one in the House wants to prevent peanut butter manufacturers from using the term “peanut butter”.
However, what we do not want is for terms to be used for items that are not found in the composition of the products. I will give some examples: chocolate cream pie without cream; butter cream glaze without butter; buttered popcorn without butter; ice cream without cream. These are things we want to avoid. It is as simple as that. It is easy to understand.
I have a problem with the government telling us that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is looking at a global labelling method for all products. I would not mind, but in the meantime, our dairy farmers are spending $75 million a year on advertising their products only to be outdone by manufacturers who do not hesitate to use dairy terms.
I would like to reiterate that milk is a raw commodity. We have all consumed milk in our lives. We are not about to start comparing this product with all other products. We are inundated with products. Hon. members know that all sorts of things come on the market.
That is why labelling is very important. There are GMOs and all sorts of other things. One day we will have to be able—and I agree with the government on this—to label all the products that turn up in our stores and on our shelves.
However, no one can tell me that milk is not a product that we know. We all have drunk milk at least once in our life. Think about it. Perhaps the hon. members do not remember, but it is clear that we have all drunk milk.
Obviously the bill before us today sets some things straight, because, in fact, too many middlemen and industrialists use these terms to make money. These terms do not reflect reality.
In this respect, if only for the sake of mothers and children, we must at least try to raise the next generation by telling them,“No one has the right anymore to tell you things that are unrealistic or untrue”. When the word “dairy” is used, it will be because there is truly a milk component present in the product.
I hope that I will be one of those who has a chance to vote in favour of this bill and will be able to say to his children and grandchildren, “For several generations, we were pushed around by industry, which tried to use by-products to make its incredible profits”.
Therefore, we can set this right again. It would be one good thing we could do for the dairy industry, children and mothers, so that everyone listening to us and everyone who comes after us, will understand that the members of this House decided that, in the dairy industry, when a product is sold as a milk product is must truly be a milk-based product.
Therefore I am pleased to state that the Bloc Quebecois will vote in favour of this bill.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Dairy Terms Act
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