U.S. group views Healthy Eating Strategy labels as trade barrier

Policy: News Roundup from the September 2017 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

A close up on a nutrition facts label

While all of agriculture is focused on retaining market access to the U.S. and Mexico embedded in the North American Free Trade Agreement, the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) based in Washington, D.C., is just as concerned about proposed changes to Canada’s food labels.

In an August 15 letter to United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, NAMI president and CEO Barry Carpenter urges the U.S. to oppose efforts by Canada to implement new, unjustified technical barriers to agricultural trade during the NAFTA negotiations.

Specifically the institute points to proposed mandatory front-of-pack nutrition warnings for saturated fat, sodium and sugar as part of Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy.

While the general goals of the strategy are positive and mirror actions taken in the U.S., Carpenter says this particular initiative “appears to be an unjustified technical barrier to trade.”

“We are concerned that Canada is determined to follow the path of Chile which imposed a similar scheme last year,” which Carpenter points out was opposed by Canada and the U.S. and several other countries on the basis that it could be a barrier to trade.

“We believe the alarmist, unscientific, mandatory measure being proposed by Canada is no different,” wrote Caprenter. “We also believe it will have an inordinately negative impact on consumer packaged foods from the U.S., given the significant market share of branded, U.S. products in the Canadian market.”

By taking this action, Carpenter says, Canada is not following existing Codex guidance on nutrition labelling nor is it waiting for the Codex Committee on Food Labelling to provide guidance on front-of-pack nutrition labelling. He says the Codex Committee, hosted by Canada in May 2016, has the goal of maximizing harmonization and reducing barriers to trade in relation to front-of-pack labelling.

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