MONTREAL — Marketing healthy fruits and vegetables to Canadian consumers would be easier if the federal government adopted a standard nutrient list and relaxed rules on health claims, according to session panelists at the Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s annual conference.
“Our challenge is getting the health message about fruit and vegetables out there, but there are so many rules restricting what we can and can’t say, it’s hard,” said moderator Larry McIntosh, president and CEO of Peak of the Market, a vegetable distributor in Winnipeg, Manitoba, at the April 14 session.
McIntosh said his company was forced to cancel a radio spot last summer touting the health benefits of a medium potato with its high vitamin C content, iron and more potassium than a banana. The reason: you can’t attach a nutrition label, required by law, to a radio ad.
Mike Furi, produce manager for The Grocery People in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, said the lack of a central source of approved nutritional data in Canada and the prohibitive cost to companies of conducting their own nutrition analysis makes it impossible to make and/or defend any kind of health claim on fresh produce.
At the urging of CPMA, Furi said Ottawa may soon adopt the existing U.S. nutritional facts table for the top 20 fruits and top 20 vegetables.
“We think the Canadian government is going to accept this information in the next six months to a year so we can start to promote the health benefits of fruits and vegetables,” said Furi, who is on several CPMA committees.
In the meantime, he urged CPMA members to get behind programs already in place, such as the CPMA’s Mix It Up, and provincial initiatives such as Quebec’s “I love 5 to 10 a day.”
Incoming CPMA president Ron Lemaire reminded U.S. participants that along with bilingual packaging, food products entering Canada must include a nutrient facts table that meets Canadian regulations.