Ever since I can remember I've heard the comment that there is "no difference" between Canadians and Americans. I respectfully beg to differ as there is a difference on so many levels! We have unique Canadian culture consisting of Canadianisms, a Canadian perspective on world events, Canadian cuisine as well as products and foods only available in Canada. This blog is dedicated to celebrating all things Canadian from "my perspective" as a Canadian. Please enjoy your visit and be sure to visit often.

Garden Gnome
Americans should never underestimate the constant pressure on Canada which the mere presence of the United States has produced. We're different people from you and we're different people because of you. Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is effected by every twitch and grunt. It should not therefore be expected that this kind of nation, this Canada, should project itself as a mirror image of the United States.
- Pierre Trudeau

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Few of My Thoughts on the Food Industry in Canada

From this Canadian's Perspective: 

The vast majority of Canadians buy all or a good portion of their food in a grocery store.  That's a given because let's face it, in Canada our growing seasons are such that we could not possibly grow all the food we want in any given year.  I am emphasizing want because for the most part many Canadians could grow what they need to help reduce food insecurity in Canada.  The food industry is considerably larger than all of us mere mortals.  They have single handedly convinced Canadians that home cooking is too much work and yet our higher powers (Canadian Food Inspection Agency, CFIA; Health Canada and through imports the USDA/FDA) that be routinely subject Canadians to:
  • excess food additives
  • allowing BPA (bis-phenol A) to contaminate commercially canned foods and drinks via a mandatory plastic coating - actually this is a USDA mandate that CFIA and Health Canada tolerates even though this chemical is harming Canadian children
  • allowing preservatives like sodium benzoate (in products like RealLemon) that when exposed to acidic and heat conditions breaks down into benzene, a known carcinogen
  • an acceptable level of bug and other contaminates in commercially canned food (imported and home grown)
And that is just the tip of the iceberg!  For decades the food industry has brainwashed Canadians into believing the food source is secure and safe.  If it is so safe, why then do we get regular warnings regarding Listeria, E.coli and Salmonella ranging in everything from fresh salad greens imported from the US to homeland contaminations in meat packaging plants.  If it is so secure, why is food insecurity in Canada one of the biggest concerns?  In many ways just as with the recent rulings from the CRTC, the CFIA does not have the best interests of Canadians at heart and neither does the food industry.  The bottom line is the food indusry and governing agencies care about one thing and one thing only, the almighty dollar.

Canadians need to say enough is enough.  I'm not trying to fearmonger but rather inform.  I honestly believe that the Canadian food industry is trouble because they simple don't have the balls to stand up and say we are Canadian rather than follow blindly what the Americans do.  The USDA says they want the BPA plastic lining so our kids have to suffer?  The USDA says high fructose corn syrup safe.  Where are the Canadian tests meant to protect Canadians?  I was saddened to see that my government of which I pay taxes to tells me to use the USDA for canning advice which would be so bad except that their last major overhaul of recommended canning practices was in 1994.  By any standard data that is now 17 years old is more than outdated!  Why is it in a country where home canning does play a larger role in many families lives that we are referred to old data not even compiled by our own country?  Why is it we don't have enough food inspectors to check out our meat processing plants?  Lord know we have enough unemployed so perhaps some of them could pick up the slack.  Why is it in a country where food insecurity is a growing concern there aren't programs to help those less fortunate grow their own even through community gardens.  Many communities have open space why not use that space to grow food for those who need it.  Teach them the skills so they can teach someone else while helping themselves.

I firmly believe each individual has the responsiblity to ensure a safe food supply for themselves and their family.  How you do this will depend on your life skills, your willingness to learn and get involved.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:
  • grow what you can yourself
  • buy locally from local farmers
  • learn to preserve what you grow buy locally
  • contact food  manufacturers - It is surprising how much one person can actually change how a food producer makes or markets their product.  If you see an ingredient you don't like in a product, let them know about it.  Contact them if you don't like their packaging.  Write them if you don't like how they are not doing business in a socially responsible manner.  
  • get involved! - As Canadians we tend to be a rather passive lot letting everyone including our elected officials (you know the ones eating $1,000 a plate meals while we can barely afford to put food on our table, the very same ones our tax dollars pay their huge pay cheques). There are at least 4 levels of government every Canadian can address their concerns to - municipal, county, provincial and federal. You can address each concern at every level of government.  If you don't like something the CFIA has done get in touch with your MP.  If you don't like that Joe the farmer dumps chemicals into the ditch let the municipality know and be sure to follow through. 
  • get the media involved!  - Our country is dotted with all kinds of ways to get your message out through media from local broadcasting stations to local newspapers to larger publications and if that doesn't work you can always blog about it where the message will get out well beyond Canada's borders.
  • be persistent - One letter, one complaint, one comment is easy to overlook.  These get passed to the wayside.  But the squeaky wheel is the one that gets fixed so be that squeaky wheel.


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