What type of protection is afforded to reserved designations?
As well as accrediting external certification bodies responsible for ensuring that specifications are complied with, the Conseil des Appellations Réservées et des Termes Valorisants administers a market surveillance system made up of qualified inspectors. It is responsible for carrying out the measures set out in the surveillance program while ensuring fair treatment for businesses and organizations that are subject to the Act respecting Reserved Designations and Added-Value Claims. Under the Act, the Conseil des Appellations Réservées et des Termes Valorisants has powers of inspection and the power to seek legal remedy against any offender in order to stop fraudulent or unauthorized use of a reserved designation.
Once a product has been recognized as a reserved designation, can changes be made to the specifications?
Yes. Persons or groups concerned by a designation can request amendments to specifications approved by the Conseil des Appellations Réservées et des Termes Valorisants. Full information on reserved designations in Québec can be viewed in this section.
Are there costs associated with the application for recognition process?
The recognition process administered by the Conseil des Appellations Réservées et des Termes Valorisants involves no cost for the applicant group. However, a certain amount of effort is required, which translates into an investment of time for the promoters. With regard to expenses incurred in conducting a feasibility study and developing specifications, the Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ) runs a program to provide funding for various stages in the preparation of an application. For information on this program, follow this link (french only).
How long does the process of obtaining recognition of a designation take?
The process of evaluating an application submitted to the Conseil des Appellations Réservées et des Termes Valorisants takes at least six months. However, the process may take longer if the various steps in processing require adjustments or reveal a failure to achieve consensus between the various parties concerned in the application for recognition of a designation.
Can I trust certification?
Certification is subject to very strict supervision in the form of a series of control measures such as inspections of production sites, including a check of inputs used, a check of quality and traceability systems, an examination of accounting records (trial balance) and, where applicable, laboratory analyses of finished products. Only certification bodies accredited by the Conseil des Appellations Réservées et des Termes Valorisants are entitled to provide businesses with a certification service. This service involves annual costs for businesses whose products are certified.
How do I report an irregularity or request verification?
Anyone can file a complaint or put a question to the Conseil des Appellations Réservées et des Termes Valorisants if they consider that a product designated by a reserved designation offered for sale shows nonconformities regarding advertising, labelling, presentation or a commercial document relating to the product. Complaints or questions will be treated confidentially.
How does the surveillance service operate in the field?
The surveillance service conducts verification tours throughout Québec to ensure that current regulations are being observed. Inspectors may visit farms, processors, distributors, retailers and any place where reserved-designation products are on sale. The service also monitors written media and web publications and answers the concerns of consumers who file complaints or requests for verification. Anyone contravening the Act respecting Reserved Designations and Added-Value Claims or its regulations commits an offence and is liable to a fine of between $2,000 and $20,000 or, in the case of a repeat offence, of between $4,000 and $60,000.
Why is checking the conformity of designations handed over to certification bodies?
Once a designation has been recognized, an external certification body ensures that specifications are complied with and certifies products. Certification by an independent, impartial external body gives consumers a guarantee that the approved specifications and product traceability requirements are fully met. To find out more about certification bodies accredited by the Conseil des Appellations Réservées et des Termes Valorisants, follow this link.
What products are eligible for a reserved designation?
Products eligible for a reserved designation are those destined for human or animal consumption. Alcohol-containing products, such as beers, wines and spirits, are also eligible.
How can I obtain recognition of a reserved designation?
An application for recognition of a reserved designation must be submitted by a group of persons involved in the production or processing of the product concerned. Applications are passed on to the Conseil des Appellations Réservées et des Termes Valorisants, which evaluates them in a multistage process, including a field visit and a public consultation on the content of specifications. Once the Conseil has approved the specifications and made a determination regarding the accreditation of a certification body to certify the product, it makes a recommendation to the Minister on whether the reserved designation should be recognized. On the recommendation of the Conseil, the Minister grants recognition to the reserved designation by publishing a notice in the Gazette officielle du Québec. Full information on reserved designations in Québec can be viewed in this section.
What is the Conseil des Appellations Réservées et des Termes Valorisants, and what is its mission?
The Conseil des Appellations Réservées et des Termes Valorisants was created by the Québec government pursuant to the Act respecting Reserved Designations and Added-Value Claims In 2006. The Conseil is the designated body for: evaluating applications; supervising the development of specifications; advising the Minister on the recognition of a designation or the authorization of an added-value claim, as well as the specific characteristics of products to be protected; accrediting and monitoring certification bodies tasked with verifying compliance with standards. The Conseil also has the responsibility of monitoring designations and how they are used in markets and on the web once they have been recognized.
How does recognition as a reserved designation benefit a product?
Reserved designations play an essential twofold role in the local economy. On the one hand, they give consumers a guarantee of the authenticity of a food product having specific attributes. On the other hand, they protect producers and their products against imitations and fraudulent labelling. Companies that produce an item bearing a reserved designation have a comparative advantage over their main competitors, in both local and external markets.
What is a reserved designation?
A reserved designation provides public recognition and highlights the authenticity of a food product for human (or animal) consumption that is distinct from other products in the same category.
The Act respecting Reserved Designations and Added-Value Claims provides for three categories of designations:
- Designations linked to a terroir: designations of origin (DO) and protected geographical indications (PGI). In either case, the designation is intended to recognize a link between a region or locality and a product that originates there. Currently there are five: Vin du Québec, Neuville Sweet Corn, Cidre de glace du Québec, Québec Icewine and Agneau de Charlevoix.
- Designations relating to a specificity (DS). This type of designation serves to highlight a specific characteristic of a product. Canadienne Cow Cheese enjoys this recognition;
- Designations relating to a method of production. This type of designation applies to a product which, by virtue of a specific method of production, is distinct from other products in the same category. The item must be the product of a complete system of growing, raising and processing whose standards allow distinctive objectives to be attained. Organic production is the first designation in this category.
Lastly, an added-value claim identifies a particular characteristic of a product, generally related to a method of production or preparation, that is sought by consumers. Farm cheese, craft beer and indigenous product are possible examples.