Quebec company accused in alleged broccoli mislabelling fraud

Do you know if that head of broccoli you're buying is really grown locally or from out of the country?

La Presse reports a vegetable processing company in the Lanaudière region north of Montreal is accused of importing broccoli from the U.S., deliberately mislabelling it as a 'Product of Canada' and then selling it here.

The newspaper says local producers complained to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency about the broccoli that was being shipped out of the Vegkiss plant. 

Sylvain Charlebois, professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University, said such mislabelling happens more often than we think.

"We know that it's happening and it's very difficult to actually catch companies that do that," said Charlebois in an interview with CJAD 800.

"People may think, Well, what's the big deal, why bother? People are willing to pay a premium to buy broccoli from Quebec, from Canada. If that broccoli actually comes from somewhere else and they still pay a premium, well, that's misrepresentation, and it is a type of food fraud."

And the public is usually unaware.

"It's hard -  these situations are better assessed when looking at the entire supply chain which is really hidden from the consumer. The consumer can only see what happens in the store," said Charlebois.

Charlebois said farmer's markets are not immune.

"There are no guarantees. People may actually think if you go to the Atwater Market or the Jean Talon Market, you may actually think that you're protected but you never know - there's been some cases at farmers' markets of food fraud as well."

Charlebois said if you do have your suspicions, file a complaint with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFI).

"More and more the CFI is proactive and trying to catch companies that are trying to mislead the public," said Charlebois.

If convicted, the company could face a fine of half a million dollars.  An employee who has also been charged could face a prison sentence of up to 14 years.