Do your groceries weigh less than labelled? What shoppers can do

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Grocery weight gate: Do your groceries weigh less than what’s on the label?
WATCH: Grocery weight gate: Do your groceries weigh less than what's on the label? – May 30, 2024

Fed up with high grocery bills, Canadians are increasingly calling out apparent weight discrepancies in food product labelling in the country and raising questions about whether there are laws in place to help counter that.

There is growing frustration in Canada about high grocery prices as a nationwide boycott of Loblaws has gathered steam online over the past month.

The issue of grocery items weighing less than labelled has also been brought up by Canadians on social media in recent weeks and months, including videos of people weighing their food packages and finding far less than what’s on the label.

If it happens to you, what can you do?

How to file a complaint

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has a webpage that allows people to submit any food-related complaints or concerns by filling out a form.

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“There is legislation that requires accurate labelling on food products and if those labels are incorrect, then the Canadian Food Inspection Agency can take action,” Alex Colangelo, a business law professor at Humber College, said in an interview with Global News Wednesday.

Under the Safe Food for Canadians Act, it is prohibited to “manufacture, prepare, package, label, sell, import or advertise a food commodity in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to create an erroneous impression.”

The Food and Drugs Act also bars labelling, packaging, selling or advertising food in a false, misleading or deceptive way.

“There’s definitely regulatory steps that the CFIA can take and consumers can alert them to those issues,” Colangelo said.

The accountability could fall either on the manufacturer, who is responsible for packaging, weighing and labelling the products, or the retailer over its lack of diligence in selling the products, he said.

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Loblaw testing grocery receipt scanners. Can customers refuse?

What can shoppers do about food mislabelling?

While alerting the CFIA is one course of action, consumers also have the option of directly contacting the retailer if they are not satisfied with their purchase.

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Colangelo said consumers can demand compensation for the value of the missing goods or get an exchange.

“I think for most people, the response that would be practically doable would be (to) go to the retailer, and hopefully they respond positively,” Colangelo said.

Taking legal action is also on the table since incorrect labelling means a breach of contract on the retailer’s part, but it’s a less practical and feasible step, especially if the item in question costs only a few bucks, he said.

“I think when you think about the costs of actually taking legal action, it’s not practical for people. I’m not going to sue over a mislabelled $5 bag of vegetables. That’s not realistic.”

In a video posted on TikTok last week, a Vancouver resident claimed that a bag of frozen vegetables labelled 750 grams that he bought from Loblaws weighed much less than advertised – at 434 grams.

One user commented: “Bring your scale to the store and call the manager and start weighing stuff.”

Another wrote: “That’s it I’m bringing my food scale shopping from now on.”

There is no law prohibiting shoppers from doing that, according to Colangelo, but he said retailers have the right to stop people as long as they’re not breaching human rights legislation, he said.

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A spokesperson for Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, who has been working on trying to attract more foreign grocers to Canada, directed Global News to Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay when asked for comment.

MacAulay’s office has not yet responded to questions about the matter.

Global News reached out to the Conservative finance and food security critics for comment but did not receive a response by publication time.

B.C. MP Alistair MacGregor, who is the NDP’s food price inflation critic, said the party wants to see legislation to make sure grocery products are as advertised.

“I’m actually currently working on on a private member’s bill to establish a national framework on improving food price transparency,” he told Global News in an interview Wednesday.

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MacGregor, who spearheaded the agriculture committee’s investigation into food price inflation, said that study showed that the federal government needs to play a “bigger role” in standardizing unit prices and also educating Canadian consumers.

“We want to make sure that all of the major grocery retailers are playing by the same rules,” he said.

While food inflation has cooled lately from decades-high levels seen nearly two years ago, Canadians are continuing to report rising costs on their grocery bills in recent months, according to recent polling from Ipsos conducted exclusively for Global News.

And throughout the current inflationary period, many consumers and politicians have pinned the blame for rising prices on Canada’s highly concentrated grocery sector.

— with files from Global News’ Craig Lord.

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