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Grades and grade names currently exist for foods under the Canada Agricultural Products Act (CAPA) and the Fish Inspection Act (FIA). A grade name is described under CAPA as a prescribed name, mark or designation of a category and includes a standard prescribed for an agricultural product.
Grades establish product quality requirements depending on the food commodity, which may include parameters such as flavor, aroma, texture, colour, moisture, size, maturity, firmness, shape, cleanliness, density, clarity, fat content, condition of the food, as well as different types of defects. Grade names identify the degrees of quality in a given food commodity. They are used as a reference point or common language to:
- establish expectations for consistent product quality;
- support industry in marketing their product;
- bring to consumers the quality of product they want;
- facilitate trade between countries and provinces;
- establish prices and/or contracts between buyer and seller;
- protect against fraud and adulteration.
Mandatory and Voluntary Grades
Depending on the food commodity, grades are either mandatory or may be used on a voluntary basis. In either case, whenever a grade name is used, the food commodity must meet the grade requirements.
A person who wants to apply or use a grade name must be authorized by the regulations to do so.
The following are some of the conditions that need to be met in order for a grade name to be applied to a food commodity:
- The food meets health and safety requirements;
- The food meets the grade requirements;
- The food meets the applicable standards of identity and composition requirements, if any;
- The food meets the applicable colour classification requirements, if any;
- The food is packaged and labelled in accordance with the regulatory requirements; and
- The food is generally graded in a registered establishment or by a grader. There are however a number of exceptions to this rule.
It is not permitted to use a Canadian grade on a product for which the regulations do not prescribe a grade standard. As a general rule, a Canada grade name cannot be applied in a foreign facility, nor can a foreign grade name be applied in Canada. It is also not permitted to apply or use anything that resembles a grade name, or that is likely to be mistaken for one.
Graded Food Commodities
Grades and grade names are established for certain foods under the following commodity groups:
- shelled eggs
- fish and seafood
- fresh fruit and vegetables
- meat and poultry
- processed products
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