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Food Labeling, Politics, and Vegetarian Meats in Canada

    Oh, Canada!

    Article and interview by Alison Cole, photo illustration by Gayle Hurmuses, image from Fieldroast.

    When it comes to the labelling of grain and vegetable based meats in Canada, our government has some antiquated regulations that don’t reflect upon modern food production as David Lee, owner/founder of Field Roast Grain Meat Company of Seattle, WA, found out in mid-September.

    Canadians have been enjoying and have been able to purchase Field Roast’s savoury array of plant-based sausages, loaves, roasts and deli slices in our country since 2009, but that is set to stop very soon as grocery store shelves are currently on the verge of selling out their final supplies.

    Last month, David was told by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) that he would need to comply with Canadian food labeling standards for what they call “simulated meat products” in order to maintain distribution of all the products in Canada. According to the CFIA, any food item that takes on tFood Labeling Politics and Vegetarian Meats in Canadahe appearance and quality of a similar traditional animal flesh-based item must emulate the nutritional profile of the similar animal-based item. In other words, the nutritional profile of animal flesh is seen to be the standard in protein, fat and amino acid content as far as the Canadian government is concerned, and no other nutritional profiles that a plant-based meat would normally have are recognized as being valid or legal to sell on Canadian store shelves.

    David takes issue with this regulation, and rather than comply with the CFIA as other vegan meat products have done to stay in Canada, he intends to try to work with the government to prove that the nutritional profile of his products is suitable and safe for Canadian consumers. In doing so, this may change the status quo of deeming animal protein to be the golden standard, and will pave the way for a modern update to Canada’s current food labeling laws for veggie meats, which can be seen here.

    I had the chance to recently speak with David on the Animal Voices Vancouver radio show about this issue. In this interview, he speaks about his experiences with the CFIA’s recent declaration, his interpretation of the law, and his plans for proactive governmental changes in the future.

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