Canadian inspectors intercepted nearly 900 food products from China over concerns about faulty labels, unmentioned allergens and harmful contaminants that included glass and metal between 2017 and early 2019, according to internal federal records.
The document provides an inside look at imports from China that caught the attention of officials for appearing to fall short of Canadian standards — from gum balls with “extraneous” metal, to three-minute chow mein that contained an insect, to spicy octopus flagged for a “non-specific hazard.”
The list, compiled by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, was obtained through access-to-information law.
Its release comes at a time of significant public interest in Canada about cross-border food inspections, especially those involving China.
The scrutiny of agricultural goods has been central to a diplomatic dispute between Canada and its second-biggest trading partner. Bilateral frictions have intensified since the December arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver and China’s subsequent detention of two Canadians on espionage allegations.
The governing Liberals have come under pressure from rival Conservatives to respond by taking a harder line when it comes to Chinese imports.
In recent weeks, China asked Canada to suspend all its meat-export certificates to the Asian country after Chinese customs inspectors detected residue from a restricted feed additive, called ractopamine, in a batch of Canadian pork products. A statement by China’s embassy in Ottawa said the investigation uncovered at least 188 forged veterinary health certificates and argued the Canadian system had “obvious safety loopholes.”
Chinese authorities have also blocked imports of Canadian canola seeds, alleging they found pests in some shipments. The federal government says it has tried unsuccessfully to send a delegation of inspectors to China to examine the evidence.
The economic consequences of China’s trade actions on Canadian food shipments, as well as the detentions of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, are widely seen as attempts by Beijing to pressure the Liberal government into releasing Meng.