CHC and Canada’s Health Minister discuss key horticultural issues

CHC with minister Petitpas Taylor
CHC met with Canada’s Minister of Health, the Hon. Ginette Petitpas Taylor, to discuss Canada’s Food Guide and the need for more resources at the Pest Management Regulatory Agency. From left to right: Rebecca Lee, CHC Executive Director; the. Hon. Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health; Brian Gilroy, CHC President; Robyn McKee, CHC Policy Manager; and Caleigh Irwin, CHC Crop Protection Manager.

CHC representatives recently sat down with the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health. to thank her for speaking at Fall Harvest 2018, and in order to discuss certain key issues currently impacting the horticultural sector.

Items discussed

The meeting focused on three advocacy priorities for CHC:

  1. Canada’s updated food guide needs to recognize the value of pure fruit juice: The previous food guide included 100% pure fruit juice as a means for Canadians to help meet their daily recommended intake of fruit and vegetables. Health Canada has indicated it would be removing this recommendation, and go as far as putting fruit juice in the “items to avoid” category. Pure fruit juice is a convenient and affordable alternative to fresh fruit consumption. Discouraging the consumption of this juice will negatively impact consumers, as well as the farmers who sell their lesser-graded produce (that would otherwise go to waste) to juice manufacturers.
  2. The PMRA needs more resources: The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) is hindered by a lack of resources and scientific data as it tries to meet its mandate of regulating pesticides. Pest outbreaks require a full toolbox to be addressed effectively, but growers are being asked to do more with less, as numerous crop protection products are being cancelled despite no effective alternatives being available.
  3. The PMRA’s mandate should be updated to include economic considerations: When making regulatory decisions, the PMRA should consider the potential economic impact to Canada’s farmers. Without access to effective pest control tools, Canadian fruit and vegetable farmers will not be able to grow abundant, quality, safe food for consumers, having a direct impact on food security within Canada. Furthermore, Canadian farmers are facing competitive disadvantages with imported produce grown by farmers that continue to have access to a more expansive suite of pest control tools. This has a direct impact on the sustainability of Canadian farmers and their ability to contribute to employment and the economy.

The meeting with the Minister was brief yet productive. In addition to the above-mentioned points, we were also able to relay our concerns about the need for better communication between industry, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) in resolving food recall issues due to foodborne illnesses. It became very clear in recent food recalls and public health notices that PHAC was not considering how their messaging can negatively impact the Canadian produce industry – from farmers to retailers, particularly when the culprit is imported food. While CHC is thankful to have had the opportunity to provide feedback and receive updates, PHAC must work with industry partners and CFIA more strategically to ensure continued public trust in Canada’s food supply and in its farmers who adhere to strict traceability and internationally-recognized food safety requirements.

We are thankful to the Minister for taking the time to meet with us and we look forward to ongoing conversations with her and her team.