Last week, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (the CFIA) published a summary report on the “Blended in Canada” wine labelling consultation (the Consultation). In light of the Consultation’s results, effective March 12, 2018, the CFIA has replaced the current voluntary country of origin statement for wines blended in Canada with new statements in an effort to minimize consumer confusion.
As with many foods sold in Canada, the CFIA mandates that the label of wine sold in Canada must include a statement indicating its country of origin. For more than 20 years, the CFIA has accepted the following voluntary country of origin statement for wines that have been blended in Canada from wines imported from numerous countries:
“Cellared in Canada by (naming the company), (address) from imported and/or domestic wines.”
Although the CFIA introduced this statement with the intention of clarifying a blended wine’s countries of origin, consumers and industry stakeholders have voiced concerns on the misleading nature of the phrase “Cellared in Canada.” Many stakeholders believe this statement is not well understood by consumers and can be mistakenly interpreted as indicating a high degree of Canadian content when a wine may be a blend of primarily imported wines.
Overview of Consultation
In response to these concerns, the CFIA conducted a consultation seeking feedback from consumers, industry associations, businesses, governments, and non-governmental organizations. Participants were asked whether they would support the following proposed statements for wines blended in Canada over the existing “Cellared in Canada” statement:
For primarily imported wines: “International blend from imported and domestic wines”
For primarily domestic wines: “International blend from domestic and imported wines”
Results of Consultation
Eight hundred sixty-six stakeholders participated in the Consultation: 40% were industry stakeholders (including wine associations and wine enthusiasts) and the remaining 60% were largely individuals from the general public. In its summary report, the CFIA confirmed there was strong support amongst participants for the proposed statements and noted that, “Of the 866 participants [in the Consultation], nearly 81% of all respondents were supportive of the proposed statements, while almost 19% were not supportive.”
Those who were supportive of the proposed statements felt the existing “Cellared in Canada” statement was unclear and/or misleading and the new statements were more fair to local growers/producers, more informative, and made it easier for consumers to differentiate blended wines from Canadian wines.
Given the results of the Consultation, the CFIA has revised the wine country of origin labelling policy. As of March 12, 2018, the voluntary country of origin statement “Cellared in Canada” will no longer be used and the CFIA will now accept the new statements for country of origin declarations for wines blended in Canada from numerous countries.