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Que. complying with, appealing AIT ruling on edible oil products

Sask. cheers move allowing access to Quebec food market


Quebec has amended its rules on sales of vegetable oil-based dairy products, but is still appealing the ruling that led to the amendments, the Saskatchewan government reports.

Amendments to Quebec’s Food Products Act last week have loosened laws that have effectively banned sales in Quebec of edible oil dairy substitutes, such as some margarines and non-dairy creamers.

Saskatchewan successfully challenged the relevant sections of the Act in March under the interprovincial Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT). An AIT dispute resolution panel was convened at Saskatchewan’s request in June last year, backed up by the other three oilseed-growing western provinces.

The Food Products Act, until now, had allowed the province to designate dairy product substitutes that may be prepared, offered for sale, sold, delivered, processed, held, displayed or transported for sale.

It had also allowed the Quebec government to determine when milk or any derivative of milk “ceases to be a dairy product” and when milk is to be considered the main ingredient in the making of a dairy product.

An AIT appeals panel is expected to issue its final ruling on Quebec’s recent appeal by the end of next month, the Saskatchewan government said.

Saskatchewan’s challenge also earned it an AIT panel ruling against Quebec labelling laws that ban use of terms such as “milk,” “butter” and “cheese” in labels for dairy substitute products. Quebec’s labelling rules, however, remain in place for now, the Saskatchewan government said Monday.

“Quebec may have appealed the earlier AIT panel ruling on this issue, but we’re hopeful that its legislative actions last week reflect a genuine commitment to finally tackle these unfair barriers to trade,” provincial Trade Minister Jeremy Harrison said in a release.

“Good first step”

The Saskatchewan government, he said, believes the panel “will confirm that Quebec’s amendments to its Act were indeed necessary to address unfair trade barriers.”

Saskatchewan, he added, hopes an appeal panel ruling “will also ensure that Quebec addresses the outstanding barriers to marketing oil-based dairy products within its borders.”

Farmers, as a result of the amendments, “now have more market access opportunities for the many products that use Saskatchewan edible oil ingredients, such as certain margarines, coffee whiteners and dessert toppings,” provincial Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart said in the same release.

“This is a good first step on Quebec’s part” under the AIT, Vegetable Oil Industry of Canada president Sean McPhee said in the province’s release. “We’re looking forward to the publication of the appeal panel’s report and Quebec’s full compliance with those findings.”

Further, Harrison said, “we view this as a positive sign as provinces, territories and the federal government begin negotiations to improve internal trade in Canada.”

A diehard defender of its dairy sector, Quebec has previously placed substantial limits on the marketing of non-dairy products such as margarine.

An AIT panel in 2005 shot down Quebec’s decades-old ban on the sales of margarine sporting the same “pale yellow hue” as butter. Until 2008, margarine could only be sold in Quebec with a lard-like whitish appearance. — Network



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