Under the Act respecting Reserved Designations and Added-Value Claims, a reserved designation recognizes food products that are produced and processed in Québec and are differentiated from other products in the same category by unique characteristics. Whereas a trademark belongs to a company, a designation is a public term that is reserved and administered by the Québec government. The Conseil des Appellations Réservées et des Termes Valorisants is the official body responsible for overseeing application of the Act.
The Act, which came into force in 2008, provides for three classes of designations
Designations linked to a terroir
- designations of origin (DO) where all operations involved in production and processing must be carried out in the geographical area concerned.
- protected geographical indications (PGI) is when only the production stages that give the product its characteristics take place in the specified geographical area.
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 PGIs:
- Agneau de Charlevoix;
- Neuville Sweet Corn;
- Québec Ice Cider;
- Québec Icewine;
- Québec Wine.
Designations relating to a specificity
This type of designation serves to highlight a specific characteristic of a product, which may or may not be traditional. The product can be produced anywhere in Québec, independently of a particular region.
Canadienne Cow Cheese enjoys this recognition.
Designations relating to a method of production
This type of designation highlights 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.
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. The first added-value claim authorized in Quebec is Farm cheese. Craft beer and indigenous product would also be possible examples.
Products that enjoy a reserved designation must be certified as complying with a specification manual by an independent certifying body accredited by the Conseil des Appellations Réservées et des Termes Valorisants.
To qualify as an added-value claim, products must comply with standards defined by regulation of the Ministre de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec and certified by a certification body accredited by the Conseil des Appellations Réservées et des Termes Valorisants.
Recognition of a reserved designation or authorization of an added-value claim grants the parties registered with an accredited certification body the exclusive right to use the designation or claim.
Twofold verification for consumers
As well as accrediting external certification bodies responsible for ensuring that specification manuals are complied with, the Conseil des Appellations Réservées et des Termes Valorisants administers a market monitoring system made up of qualified inspectors. It is responsible for carrying out the measures set out in the monitoring 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 thus 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.