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Canada changing beer standard to help brewers, consumers

Changes sought by brewers to Canada’s National Beer Standard are open for comments during the next 90 days, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Beer is one of the industries that made Canada great again and again as its 817 brewing facilities account for 84 percent of the beer purchased in Canada.

Domestic wines satisfy only 33 percent and domestic hard liquors only 56 percent of the country’s drinkers.

Nevertheless, Canadian brewer associations favor  “modern beer standards” with a handful of changes. CFIA opened a 90-day comment period on the change last Saturday (June 16) that will continue until Sept. 14, 2018. Amendments would include:

  • “Other micro-organisms” in addition to yeast will be permitted in the alcoholic fermentation process. Brewers say the change will support innovation.
  • Sugar will be limited to 4 percent by weight, preserving beer’s “traditional reputation” for being low in residual sugar. The hard limit would replace language on how beer should possess “aroma, taste, and character commonly attributed to beer.”
  • Another change recognizes herbs and spices as ingredients in beers along with flavoring preparations. Flavor development is consistent with growth in the beer industry.
  • The changed beer standards will also label disclosure of flavor prepreations used by brewers in such creations so they can be distinguished by consumers.

“Proposed changes would remove duplication of the standard for ale, stout, porter, and malt liquor, make it clearer for brewers which ingredient would be used, and allow industry to be more innovative in product development while maintaining the integrity of beer,” according to CFIA.  The proposed changes, under Canada’s Food and Drug Regulations, include label changes that will require brewers to identify food allergens, gluten sources, and added sulfites.

CFIA’s began the consultation process last year, including letting the World Trade Organization (WTO) know about the potential changes in the Canadian Beer Standard. It collected 161 submissions during 2017 from consumers, brewers, provincial liquor board, and trade associations.

CFIA said it has gained the most support for these changes to the National Beer Standard:

  • Repealing the standard for Ale, Stout, Porter and Malt Liquor
  • Removing references to specific additives from the beer standard, since these already appear in the Lists of Permitted Food Additives from Health Canada
  • Removing the statement related to the aroma, taste and characteristic associated with beer
  • Clarifying the term carbohydrate matter by providing examples, and when such ingredients may be added
  • Allowing flavouring preparations if declared as part of the common name

The agency said “mixed reactions” have been received to these additional changes:

  • Mandatory “barley or wheat malt” in the definition of beer
    • Comments were received stating that the malt portion should not need to include barley or wheat and should be derived from any cereal grain to allow for greater flexibility and innovation for industry; and allow current beer-like products derived from non-gluten containing grains to be included under the beer standard.
    • The majority of brewers provided comments that barley be maintained as a mandatory ingredient in beer.
  • Adding a 4 percent limit in weight of sugar
    • The majority of respondents supported this new requirement to maintain the integrity of beer.
    • Those who were not supportive were concerned that this may exclude some styles of beer, hinder craft beer development and creativity, and may have trade implications.
  • Repeal of the exemption for beer from the mandatory labelling of food allergens, gluten source and added sulphites
    • The majority of respondents, who were consumers, supported this change to require full labelling of all food allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites.
    • Those who were not supportive of the labelling exemption repeal indicated that consumers are already aware that beer is made from barley or wheat malt.

While Canadians strongly favor their owns beers, national sales were off about 1.1 percent in 2017.

Beer is also facing new competition from recreational marijuana, which Canada’s House of Commons voted to legalize Monday. (Commons and the Senate have passed differing versions that now much be reconciled before weed will be legal throughout Canada.)

Beer Canada, the national trade association, and the Alberta Small Brewers Association, Barley Council of Canada, British Columbia Craft Brewers Guild, New Brunswick Craft Brewers Association, Nova Scotia Craft Brewers Association, and the Ontario Craft Brewers are backing the amended Beer Standard. More than half of Canada’s brewing facilities are located in either Ontario or Quebec.

Here’s how to submit comments

By email: labelling_consultation_etiquetage@inspection.gc.ca

By mail:
Director, Consumer Protection and Market Fairness Division
Food Safety and Consumer Protection Directorate
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
1400 Merivale Road, Tower 2, Floor 6
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0Y9

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