Buying or selling a product, given where it is ‘from,’ can lead to a whack of trouble.
Loblaws grocery stores were going to stop carrying French’s ketchup, perhaps because they were eating away at house brand sales. The house brand tomatoes came from California and French’s came from Ontario.
There was a consumer backlash. Loblaw caved. Then, as it turned out, French’s ketchup came from outside Ontario. French’s had to scramble, last week announcing that all aspects of production would be Ontario based as of next year. Score a double victory for Ontario consumers.
Take parkas. Apparently, Canada has earned a reputation for cold weather. The assumption purchasers make is that anything made in Canada, to fortify against cold weather, has to be well made and therefore worth paying a premium price for. The Competition Bureau is now pursuing the company that makes the charmingly named, Moose Knuckles parka, for $4 million as well as restitution to consumers. The crime, representing its parka as made in Canada.
Not so fast, says the Bureau. We have rules about calling yourself made in Canada. This means, among other things, you have to have at least half of your production costs incurred in Canada. The Bureau claims Moose Knuckles makes its parkas in Vietnam and elsewhere in Asia. For its part, Moose Knuckles says the Bureau is engaging in a thinly veiled effort to drive it out of business; that it checked with the Bureau along the way to make sure it complied with the rules. A nasty and costly fight looms
Last week, some newspapers reported on the sale of the Black River Cheese company to Gay Lea Foods, an Ontario dairy products company owned by a farmers’ co-operative. Gay Lea was quite forthright in stating what was going to happen. The Black River company store, in Milford, will remain open. To bring the factory up to current environmental standards would require a massive investment; even then, production capacity is not large enough to serve Gay Lea’s market. As a result, here in Prince Edward County, the making of only a few artisan cheeses will remain. The working example is Maple Cheddar. It’s “a superior blend of medium-aged, fine artisan cheddar and Prince Edward County's pure maple syrup.”
Now all will be well and good for Black River Maple Cheddar under new ownership. What of some of the other standards in the current repertoire, say, Old Cheddar? Might they sell under the Black River label, but manufactured elsewhere? Might the company phase out Old Cheddar?
I happen to have some Black River Old Cheddar in my fridge. I took it out and looked at the product label. There is a picture of a cow and the cheese factory, along with the words “Black River Cheese - Handcrafted since 1901 - Prince Edward County.” If Gay Lea wants to continue making Black River Old Cheddar somewhere else, will it drop the reference to Prince Edward County?
It strikes me as counter-intuitive that Gay Lea would willingly abandon its association, with the region, that is the source of all things good, fresh, wholesome and natural, just for the silly technical reason that it doesn’t make the product here anymore. There must be a way that it can make the consumer believe it is from the County, without of course actually misrepresenting anything. Doesn’t Black River Old Cheddar deserve to live on with some sort of County affiliation?
Perhaps some creative minds can split hairs and come up with something that is misleading, in an ostensibly harmless sort of way. For instance, I have to hand it to the Moose Knuckles people for the following statement on their website. “We build Canadian know-how, grit and heritage into every fibre, stitch and zipper.” It stops just short of saying the parka is Canadian made; if you want to conclude that it is, well, you are an adult.
What I have in mind is some sort of representation like “Prince Edward County’s favourite since 1901.” There are no outright fibs in that statement. True, perhaps if it were a parka, not ketchup, we might get in a little trouble. If it were ketchup, consumers might more closely scrutinize the product, but this is Old Cheddar and this is Prince Edward County, so the standards should be different.
What’s that? What are Moose Knuckles? You’d better look that up for yourself in one of those online urban slang dictionaries. This column has moral, if not ethical standards.
Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.
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