Lack of Bilingual Labelling Costs Locally Stocked Corner Store $20000

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Catchfire Catchfire's picture
Lack of Bilingual Labelling Costs Locally Stocked Corner Store $20000

Who is this fine protecting?

A local community grocer is out $20,000 after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency found products in her corner store failed to meet bilingual label requirements.

Inspectors pulled 108 items from Deb Reynold's shelves at the Home Grow-In Grocer, tucked away on 18th Avenue at Columbia Street in Vancouver's Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, during a surprise visit June 17.

"I was quite surprised that it came down to bilingual," Reynolds said. "I told them, 'After six hours, if all you can come up with is that this doesn't have bilingual labelling then my suppliers must be doing good.'"

The small but bustling community corner store boasts locally grown and produced items from micro-farmers in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and the Okanagan/Similkameen Valley. In all, the inspectors flagged 11 suppliers -- a third of the store's stock -- which failed to meet labelling requirements, including providing French translations and nutritional fact tables.

One dairy supplier was removed because their labels said "feta" or "Monterey jack" but failed to include the word "cheese." While the cheese issue was fixed with stickers, Reynolds donated the majority of the food to local charities so it wouldn't go to waste.

Reynolds was given a policy manual and nine pages of recommendations for her and her suppliers, some of whom are refusing to affix new labels because their local agricultural groups have allegedly told them previously that bilingual labels aren't required for products staying in-province.

"To me it was a waste of taxpayers' money and time to go through my individual little suppliers," Reynolds said. "I'm just somebody who is trying to support the local B.C. economy."

I shop regularly at this little shop. The first couple times I went in, they offered to give me my groceries on credit and pay the next time I came in, even though I had never been in before. They only take cash, you see. Or cheque. They only stock local, in-season produce and foodstuffs--one of the only places in the area you can get it. It is truly a lovely place, a gem. When I heard this story on the radio, they said that CIFA wasn't even there for the French--they were there because of a report that they sold yogurt without expiry dates, which turned out to be false. Incidentally, probiotic yogurt doesn't really need an expiry date. It stays good forever in the fridge. Only industrial stuff does.

The Home Grow-in.


Sounds like an amazing place!

One thing, however, that I do think should be necessary is nutritional labels. Sure, if it's locally produced and sold, then the bilingual stuff is probably not a huge deal, but it sounds like they also had a problem with the fact that some of the stuff didn't have nutritional information.

To many people, including me, it's extremely frustrating to find items without it. I label-shop and completely support the requirement that nutritional info be put on everything sold commercially.


That said, there are lots of shops that sell imported canned and jarred food in Toronto that have no nutritional labels. And where the labels are bilingual, but in English and the language of the country it comes from.  I would also be sorry to see these shops raided.  So I feel your pain, Catchfire.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Re: expiry dates. I check everything I buy, because the grocers on the coast keep stuff sometimes long past their expiry date. I think when folks pay for a product, they expect it to be reasonably fresh and not something that's been sitting on a shelf forever. The grocers have now gotten into the habit of covering up the expiry dates with price tags - a sure sign that the product has expired, so I peel the price tag to see the expiry date before deciding to buy that product or not.

Shane Dyson

I have been in the store once before and it reminds one of the old corner stores from our childhood. The owner stocks the shelves with 100 mile diet items...locally grown and produced. There are a few packaged products but mostly from organic or local producers. 

I don't believe the Canadian Food Inspection Agency goes through food stores in the Lower Mainland's ethnic neighbourhoods like they did with this store. Why was this store singled out?


Catchfire Catchfire's picture

It also looks like there was no warning given to this shop, just a whopping $20 000 fine (and a bunch of stock no longer sellable) after six hours of scouring. This is not, shall we say, the "spirit of the law." Unless the spirit of the law punishes small, compassionate acts of subversion, which perhaps it does.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I can't help wondering if big business/evil corporations were somehow behind this, to try and drive this store out of business.

Liang Jiajie

When I read the thread title, I assumed it was Chinese packaging at fault.  It is, after all, in BC. Foot in mouth