GRADES MATTER: The importance of grade standards for fresh fruits and vegetables in Canada

The Canadian and US fruit and vegetable grade standards are foundational to the DRC’s Good Arrival Guidelines and Trading Standards and serve to establish evidence in the mediation, arbitration and resolution of trade disputes. For the DRC, the importance and relevance of grade standards cannot be overstated. The standards and the availability of a credible and timely destination inspection service are core to the DRC’s mandate and member services.

In 2009 the Fresh Produce Alliance (FPA), an alliance of the Canadian Horticultural Council (CHC), the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) and DRC, led a collaborative project with growers, packers, shippers, marketers and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to review and update Canada’s fruit and vegetable grade standards. This provided industry with an opportunity to consider existing standards and remove irrelevant and obsolete information from both the standards and their complementary inspection manuals. Through meetings with small commodity-specific committees, proposed changes were developed based on a review and comparison of the Canadian and US grade standards. Consideration was also given to the respective inspection instructions and manuals and the final report outlined a very significant number of proposed changes.

The proposed Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR), which includes the Canadian Grade Compendium Volume 2 – Fresh Fruit or Vegetables (Compendium) provides an important opportunity for Canada’s fresh fruit and vegetable industry through the provision for Incorporation by Reference (IBR). Referenced documents (IBR) have the same force and effect as regulations but are much easier to amend since there is no need to pursue a regulatory change. The need for a regulatory amendment is the primary reason proposed industry changes from the 2009 review have yet to be implemented. With IBR in mind, the DRC is leading a renewed initiative to engage to revisit the Compendium, reaffirm previously proposed changes and, where appropriate, recommend additional changes.

The Compendium is the lexicon, or recognized language, for describing fruit and vegetable commodities and associated defects. This common lexicon is necessary in order for federal inspectors, private inspection firms (i.e.: insurance adjustors, marine surveyors) buyers, sellers and others to communicate in a common language when they are separated by geographic distances.

As part of the long-term strategic plan, the DRC has envisioned a time when the Canadian grade standards would be housed and maintained by the DRC and IBR is a means to do so. It is important to note that precedent for such an arrangement exists. The Beef, Bison and Veal Carcass Grade Requirements are maintained by the Canadian Beef Grading Agency (CBGA) through IBR according to conditions outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding between the CBGA and the CFIA.

During the coming year DRC will work with stakeholders toward achieving this objective. As part of this initiative, DRC is looking for volunteers who have commodity specific knowledge and would be willing to help with the current and potentially future reviews of the grades standards, if interested please contact the DRC at:

DRC Help Desk | 613-234-0982 | Info@fvdrc.com