Redundancy reigns in Toxics Reduction Act

WHILE PRODUCERS THIS fall have been busy with the harvest, the provincial government has been actively creating a redundant policy that will adversely impact Ontario’s food and feed processors. If the Ministry of the Environment has their way, flour and other grain and oilseed end products may be slapped with a ‘toxic’ label.

The Toxics Reduction Act, designed as a reporting mechanism for manufacturers to identify and reduce toxins throughout their processes, will cost food and feed processors thousands and duplicate the Federal National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) program already followed by food and feed companies. 

The key issue for grain farmers is the inclusion of “particulate matter” within the proposed act as a toxin.  In the case of flour milling, the end product, flour, would be considered particulate matter and would therefore be targeted through this act as a toxin.  As a result, flour millers would be required to submit plans to the government detailing how they would reduce that toxin, in this case, flour, in their processes.  This is also not limited to food milling as many animal feeds are ground into “particulate matter” to produce an end product.

The Grain Farmers of Ontario takes issue with our grains, whether or not in particulate form, being labeled toxic. The grain we produce in this province is stringently regulated to ensure a high quality product right through the supply chain.

Our other concern with this act is the burden of reporting this increased regulation will place on food and feed processors that already follow the guidelines for reporting laid out in the Federal NPRI program.  This new provincial act is both redundant and costly leaving Ontario’s food and feed processing industry at a disadvantage to their competitors throughout Canada and to the south.

When confronted on this issue in the legislature by MPP Toby Barrett, Environment Minister John Gerretsen stated, “So let’s be absolutely clear: The list that I have here, and I’d be more than pleased to send it over to the member, does not include food ingredients. It does include particulate matter.”  What this statement fails to take into account is the food and feed industry practice of grinding grain into particulate matter to produce an end product.  Food and feed ARE the particulate matter.

The food and feed processing sectors are mounting their offensive as the act gains momentum in government.  The consultation period has ended and the Ministry of the Environment will now work quickly to bring this act to fruition.

Grain Farmers of Ontario has publicly supported the Ontario Alliance of Food Processors, the Ontario Agri-Business Association and the Canadian National Millers Association among others in their requests for Ontario’s food and feed sector to be exempt from the Toxics Reduction Act.  In addition to an exemption, all groups are requesting a clarification of the act to state that food and feed products are not toxic as it is irresponsible to expect consumers to draw their own conclusions.

Grain Farmers of Ontario will continue to monitor this issue closely and lend our support to food and feed processors and organizations wherever we can. •