Grocery stores in Quebec will have to put both packaged-on and best-before dates on meat and other perishable foods if the Quebec government goes ahead with new legislation.
The proposed rule change would apply to food packaged in stores that have an anticipated shelf life of less than 90 days, except fruit and vegetables and individually packaged meal and snack items.
Those found tampering with dates on labels could face fines between $500 and $3,000 for a first offence and $1,500 to $9,000 for a repeat offence.
“Media reports in November 2014 revealed that some changed the packaging dates on meat and poultry,” Agriculture Minister Pierre Paradis said in a news release, explaining the justification for the change. “Quebec breeders produce quality products and consumers have the right to know that no cheating is going on. The government, therefore, must intervene.”
Paradis was referring to a Radio-Canada hidden-camera investigation that caught some retailers changing the labels on meat and poultry packages to fool consumers into thinking the products were fresher than they were. Two pieces of chicken that were test were found to contain several times the number of bacteria acceptable for human consumption.
The government notes current food regulations in Quebec do not require packaging and best-before dates on packaged products, except cheese re-packaged by retailers.
Federal regulation requires food to have packaging and best-before dates, but the best-before does not have to be posted on the actual product. Consumers no longer have this information available to them once they leave the store, the press release said.
“With this change in regulation, consumers will obtain more clear, uniform and easily understandable information, which will allow them to take advantage of barbecue season without fear,” Paradis said.
The public will have 45 days to comment on the proposed rule change.
The Quebec food retailers association, the Association des détaillants en alimentation du Québec, says the change is unnecessary and will result in consumers throwing out meat that has passed the best-before date but is still good to eat. Asks the Association: “Is it a real need or an encouragement to waste?”