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Overview of the proposed changes to the Canadian Grade Compendium: Volume 2 – Fresh Fruit or Vegetables

This document is part of the consultation on proposed changes to the Canadian Grade Compendium: Volume 2 – Fresh Fruit or Vegetables. Each phase of the consultation will focus on a group of fresh fruit or vegetables and will be open for a 60-day period.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is seeking comments on proposed changes to the Canadian Grade Compendium: Volume 2 – Fresh Fruit or Vegetables.

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About the Canadian Grade Compendium

Certain fresh fruit or vegetables (FFV) must be graded in order to be marketed in import or interprovincial trade in Canada. FFV grades and requirements are maintained and enforced by CFIA in an incorporated by reference (IbR) document titled "Canadian Grade Compendium: Volume 2 – Fresh Fruit or Vegetables", incorporated into the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR). When a document is incorporated by reference into regulations, the incorporated wording has the same effect as if it appeared in the regulations.

This Compendium contains grades and requirements for FFV that are used as a reference point to:

  • provide criteria for consistent product quality
  • support industry in marketing their product
  • inform consumers' purchasing decisions
  • facilitate trade between countries and provinces
  • establish uniform trading language for pricing and contracts between buyer and seller

Therefore, FFV grades and requirements are:

  • an essential business-to-business tool
  • a measure of consumer confidence
  • used to apply or verify SFCR requirements for FFV

Developing the draft standards for fresh fruit and vegetables

Over time, CFIA has received comments from stakeholders that many FFV grade standards are out of date and do not reflect current market needs, in relation to:

  • changes in consumer demands and demographics
  • developments in technology, including but not limited to plant and variety breeding, innovative production, storage and packing practices
  • harmonization with international standards, and
  • the need for new grade standards for certain FFV commodities where none currently exist

In order to address these market needs, and with funding from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Fruit and Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corporation (DRC) has undertaken a review of existing FFV standards and inspection manuals available in Canada and internationally. DRC engaged with their members and industry associations, representing diverse perspectives of the supply chain to develop proposals to update FFV grades and requirements. These proposed changes have been submitted by the DRC to the CFIA in order to proceed with the CFIA process to update documents that are incorporated by reference, including further review and stakeholder consultation.

Consultation process

CFIA will invite stakeholders to participate, through a phased consultation approach, to review and comment on proposed changes to FFV grades and requirements:

  • Phase 1: proposed changes to grades and requirements for greenhouse cucumbers and greenhouse tomatoes, including a new standard for greenhouse mini cucumbers: closed for comments on December 31, 2021
  • Phase 2: proposed changes to grades and requirements for apples, apricots, asparagus, grapes, peaches, pears, plums and prunes and introduce new grades and requirements for nectarines: closed for comments on February 11, 2022
  • Phase 3: will propose changes to grades and requirements for beets, carrots, cabbage, onions, parsnips, potatoes and rutabagas
  • Phase 4: will propose changes to grades and requirements for Brussels sprouts, cantaloupes, cranberries, celery and rhubarb (field)
  • Phase 5: will propose changes to grades and requirements for blueberries,  cauliflower, cherries (sweet), corn (sweet), cucumbers (field), lettuce (head) and strawberries

Comments from these consultations, including comments from World Trade Organization (WTO) notifications, will be analyzed by the CFIA with the goal to revise FFV grade standards in the Canadian Grade Compendium.

Visit the consultation page to see what phase is currently open for comments.

Summary

Types of proposed changes to FFV grades and requirements include:

  • new definitions and interpretation sections
  • amendments to certain commodity-specific size requirements as well as tolerances
  • introduction of new grade standards for greenhouse mini cucumbers and nectarines

Impact assessment

CFIA recognizes that any changes to existing grades and requirements may have an economic impact on regulated parties, or create administrative, operational and implementation costs for the CFIA. Consumers may also be impacted, such as by changes to the varieties and quality of foods available for purchase and choices in the marketplace.

In order to evaluate costs and benefits to industry, the CFIA used a questionnaire to gather information from the DRC on how proposed changes could impact Canadian industry competitiveness and affect business decisions. Preliminary analysis of received information determined that proposed changes to grades and requirements are expected to pose a minimal trade impact and be of benefit to Canadians, business and government. Specifically, the proposed amendments are expected to generate the following impacts:

  • improve the minimum quality standards for FFV
  • introduce new standards to facilitate trade and address evolving market demands, for example greenhouse mini cucumbers and nectarines
  • eliminate certain requirements and grades for some commodities, for example the grades and grade names for grapes, thus reducing costs of production and giving industry flexibility to innovate and meet consumers' demand
  • increase the size ranges offered for given uses, thus increasing availability of some commodities in the market supply
  • have minimal impact on consumers' dietary choices and no effect on safety since existing safety requirements will be maintained for FFV and proposed changes are limited to grade and quality requirements
  • result in limited impacts or costs of changing labels or sizing equipment, except possibly for smallFootnote 1 businesses

A final impact analysis will be conducted using the results of this consultation, considering all relevant comments and evaluating level of effort associated with implementation of the proposed changes.

These changes will be made to the existing framework for grades, rather than by introducing new requirements. As such, there will be some temporary effort required to integrate the proposed requirements into existing activities and to implement the amendments.

Transition and implementation of the proposed changes

In developing a transition and implementation approach for this proposal, the CFIA considered the Food labelling coordination: Joint policy statement published by CFIA and Health Canada on August 5, 2021. This included an assessment of the potential for label changes and the need for focused consultation with stakeholders on an appropriate transition period.

During DRC's development of the amendments, CFIA sought input on industry readiness to adopt the proposed changes. Industry stakeholders expressed an interest in the amendments coming into effect immediately when they are finalized in order to facilitate uptake as early as the next growing season in 2022.

Additionally, as the majority of existing grade names will continue, existing packaging inventory would continue to be usable, with potential adjustments to the graded produce that is packaged in a container bearing a given grade name.

While there is stakeholder readiness to adopt the changes quickly while ensuring continuity and fulfilments in supply, CFIA recognizes that some regulated parties or trading partners may need time to adjust to the new grades and requirements, taking into consideration the needs of small businesses and different growing seasons across Canada, as well as adjustments to sizing equipment in some cases. As such, CFIA proposes that the proposed amendments come into effect as follows:

  • in the case of greenhouse cucumbers, including greenhouse mini cucumbers and greenhouse tomatoes, the changes could come into effect immediately upon final publication, with a 6-month transition period, during which time regulated parties may comply with either the previous or new requirements
    • at the end of the 6-month transition period, the previous requirements will cease to apply and all regulated parties must comply with the new requirements
  • in the case of all other commodities the transition period may last up to 12 months, based on the product seasonality, existing storage supply for some crops and possible challenges of achieving compliance with new requirements

To facilitate implementation and promote compliance, following the finalization of the amendments, CFIA will update its Inventory of documents incorporated by reference, as well as industry guidance, inspection tools and training materials. Additional information on the transition and implementation dates as well as availability of guidance documents and information tools will be available by email notification.

Contact us

If you have any questions about this consultation, please send an email to cfia.labellingconsultation-etiquetage.acia@inspection.gc.ca.