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American apple juice is clearly labelled, but Canada’s rules leave consumers in the dark

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Bearing glossy red fruit, phrases like “Canada Choice” or “prepared in Canada,” and other subtle hints, the packaging on apple juice gives Canadian consumers the impression they’re drinking apples from this country.

Don’t let those labels fool you: Most of the juice found on grocery store shelves is made from cheaper foreign apple concentrate that’s been flooding into the Canadian market over the last few decades.

  • Watch Marketplace at 8 p.m. on Friday on CBC TV and online.

Consumers are at least partly in the dark because Canadian juice-makers don’t have to list the origins of their ingredients under Canada’s food labelling rules — and the government agency that controls labelling has no plans to change that policy in the near future.

“I think there would be a lot of people feeling really deceived if they knew the whole story. But right now, you can’t get the whole story,” said Brett Schuyler, co-owner of Schuyler Farms, one of Ontario’s largest apple orchards. “You look at the product: How do you know where it’s from?”

Brett Schuyler, co-owner of Schuyler Farms in southern Ontario, would like Canadian consumers to know where the apples that go into their juice come from. But he says it’s often hard to tell under our country’s current labelling system. (Norm Arnold/CBC)

In a given year, Schuyler will produce 4,500 tonnes of apples in a dozen varieties. But he estimates that less than five per cent of his harvest ends up in cartons of apple juice sold on store shelves in Canada.

Marketplace reviewed the labels of about two dozen apple juices produced by large-scale Canadian juice-makers and stocked by major grocery stores — and found a handful that advertise they are made with Canadian apples, including Graves McIntosh Apple, Oasis Classic (not from concentrate) and Tropicana Pure Premium (1.75 litre).

(A few others indicate they consist of “domestic and imported ingredients” but provide no other details.)

Marketplace reviewed the labels of about two dozen apple juices produced by major Canadian juice-makers, and found just a handful that advertise they are made with Canadian apples, including Oasis Classic (not from concentrate), Tropicana Pure Premium (1.75 litre) and Graves McIntosh Apple. But other products made by these same companies contain ingredients from outside the country. (CBC and Tropicana.ca)

U.S. labels tell a much clearer story

It’s a different story south of the border, where since 1987, U.S. Customs has insisted that manufacturers indicate country of origin on their juice labels.

So while a Minute Maid juice box packaged and sold in Canada does not include any country information about its ingredients, its American counterpart clearly states “contains apple juice concentrate from the U.S.A., Argentina, Chile, China, and Turkey.”

A Minute Maid juicebox produced in the U.S., shown at left, lists the country-of-origin details. But the Canadian equivalent, shown at right, does not. (CBC)

It’s that kind of transparency Schuyler says is missing from Canadian shelves.

“It is a great example, looking at what they’ve done in the States to just put it on the label. Clear country of origin labelling would be a very good thing to see in Canada,” he said.

Food lawyer Glenford Jameson, who works with companies to ensure their labels meet Canadian standards, says country of origin requirements on juice is a “voluntary statement” in Canada.

“All you need to say is that it’s prepared in Canada,” he said. “And you can choose to say it’s prepared from imported or domestic ingredients — but you don’t necessarily have to spell out where it’s from.”

Apples from around the world

While apple juice labels aren’t legally required to list the country of origin, similar to a number of fruit and vegetable products prepared in Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) does require the labels to include company information.

In an attempt to learn the source of apples for some of the most popular juice brands sold in Canada, Marketplace contacted the customer service departments of five different companies.

The agents we reached told Marketplace that their juices were produced with apple concentrate from China, Poland, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand and the U.S. as well as with “some” apples from Canada.

Marketplace asks consumers if they can tell the origins of a juice’s ingredients, based on the label:

Marketplace tests consumers on if they can tell the origins of the ingredients in their juice, based on the label. 0:39

With its massive orchards and cheap labour force, China has become the world’s largest producer of apple juice concentrate over the last few decades.

China is also the number one supplier of apple juice concentrate to Canada, far outpacing other countries, according to Statistics Canada and the World Apple Review.  Last year, nearly 30 million litres of apple juice concentrate alone was imported into Canada from China.

Apple concentrate is produced from apple juice that is boiled down into a thick liquid, packaged in plastic-lined steel drums and transported around the world by tankers. Once in Canada, the concentrate is mixed with water and reconstituted into a drinkable juice.

The CFIA is currently reviewing its labelling practices in Canada, though the agency says there are no plans to change the rules around apple juice labels in the future. (Norm Arnold/CBC)

While the U.S. does not believe that adding water to a concentrate changes the product substantially, the Canadian government does. In Canada, adding water to apple concentrate is considered “a substantial transformation,” the CFIA says, and therefore no country of origin is required because it becomes a “processed product.”

Marketplace also reached out to Canada’s largest apple juice-maker, A. Lassonde Inc., to ask about the source of its apples or concentrate.

The Quebec-based Lassonde owns and produces about a dozen juice brands throughout North America, including Oasis, Fairlee, Rougemont and Graves — and the iconic Allen’s, with that navy blue can sporting shiny McIntosh apples, a maple leaf and the slogan: “A Canadian Favourite For Over 80 Years.”

While a customer service agent first said she thought the apples used in Allen’s juice were “Canadian,” a later email from the company indicated that the apple concentrate used “can come from a variety of places, including North America, South America, Asia and Europe.”

Juice apples not worth the squeeze

But those answers don’t sit well with Schuyler. “For farmers, it’s just frustrating that you can’t identify what [or] if this juice was made with Canadian apples.”

For farmers like him, growing and selling apples for juice is no longer worth the squeeze. Like many Canadian apple farmers Schuyler focuses on cultivating large, perfect eating apples which fetch a higher price than juice or “salvage” apples.

“It’s just pure economics,” he said.

Marketplace host Charlsie Agro and Brett Schuyler test some of the apples grown at Schuyler Farms, which produces 4,500 tonnes of apples each year in a dozen varieties. (Jeannie Stiglic/CBC)

Schuyler says he is paid about 25 cents a pound for fresh McIntosh apples for eating, for example, compared to just five cents a pound for undercoloured, small, bruised or misshapen fruit that don’t meet the standard of perfection for produce aisles.

That means he makes no money selling juice apples — because it costs him about that much per pound to harvest them.

And there is little incentive for Canadian juice-makers to pay local apple farmers higher prices because of the plentiful supply of cheap, foreign concentrate.

“This is the problem,” said Schuyler. “There’s not a lot of interest at the company level about growing Canadian juice.”

Canada’s rule-maker responds

The CFIA is currently reviewing its labelling practices in Canada, though the agency said there are no plans to change the rules around apple juice labels in the future.

And while the CFIA won’t force companies to add country of origin information, the agency “encourages” companies to add those details for consumers, said Aline Dimitri, executive director and deputy chief food safety officer.

“What’s in everybody’s best interest is … for the information to be available,” she said. “As long as this information is available, the consumer has the ability to get it — and that is what’s important for us.”

She added: “It is not just about reading the label; it’s about reading the label and asking questions. I think that we often forget that the consumer isn’t just a passive player in all of this.”

The current labelling policy is also about balancing consumer need for immediate information and industry need for flexibility, Dimitri said.

And if the answers consumers seek are not forthcoming or complete, Dimitri urges Canadians to contact the CFIA.

“The reality is if you’re not satisfied with the answer that the industry is giving you — and that’s something that I say to all Canadians — CFIA welcomes all Canadians to actually come and talk to us.”

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Window repair or replacement is the responsibility of the condo corporation

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If the windows in your condo are hazy, drafty, or have rotting frames, it’s an indicator that they need repairs or outright replacement.

However, under the Condominium Act, it is the responsibility of the condo’s board to carry out such changes as a replaced window is a common element.

“Under the Condominium Act, a declaration may alter the maintenance or repair obligations of unit owners and the corporation but cannot make unit owners responsible for repairs to the common elements,” said Gerry Hyman is a former president of the Canadian Condominium Institute and contributor for the Star.

“A declaration for a high-rise condominium invariably provides that the unit boundary is the interior surface of windows. That means that the entire window — whether it is a single pane or a double pane — is a common element. Necessary repairs or replacement of a broken pane is the obligation of the corporation.”

According to Consumer Reports, selecting an installing windows replacement can be very overwhelming for homeowners. Therefore, if you aren’t covered by your condo’s corporation, it would be necessary to hire professional hands.

Wood, vinyl and composite windows need to be tested on how they can withstand various natural elements. For wind resistance, a window can be very tight when it’s warm but get quite cold too—especially when it begins to leak a lot.

Whatever the case may be, the bottom line remains that replacement windows can save you heating and cooling costs, but it’s best not to expect drastic savings.

Additionally, while getting a new window might help you save on your electric and gas bills, due to their expensive cost, it may take a long time to offset their cost.

Mid-last-year, the government withdraw a $377 million Green Ontario program that provided subsidy on windows to installers and repairers. Window companies had to install energy-efficient windows in order to qualify for the government subsidy that pays for up to $500 of a $1,000 to $1,500 window.

Due to the largely generous subsidies from the government under the Green Ontario program, a lot of window dealers were fully booked for months—even after the program had ended.

“We’re fine with the program ending, we just need more time to satisfy consumers,” said Jason Neal, the executive director of the Siding and Window Dealer Association of Canada, the industry group representing window dealers in a report.

According to Neal, the Progressive Conservatives acted hastily, making massive changes with no prior notice.

“No notification was given to us by anyone,” he said, noting he learned about the change through one of his dealers.

“It’s created a ripple effect.If they had just given us notice we would have pushed that down the line from the manufacturer right into the dealer right down to the consumer.”

Neal noted that he wasn’t particularly sad to see the Green Ontario program end, as it was “the worst rebate program in the history of the window industry.”

“It’s been horrible,” he said. “$500 a window has created such hysteria.”

However, despite the program ending about a year ago, numerous homeowners have been contacting window dealers consistently with concerns that they might not be able to afford replacement windows without the government’s subsidy.

“I understand their concern,” said window dealer Chris George. “I would suggest they reach out to their local representative of the government in their riding and let them know about their concerns.”

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7 Vancouver Real Estate Buying Tips

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The real estate market in Vancouver is turning around for good for everyone looking to purchase a home.

Previously soaring prices are now beginning to ease up, making it a perfect time for buyers—with real estate agents already getting ready for a very busy spring and summer season.

However, before splashing cash on a new property, there are some very important tips you need to know to ensure you make the most of the buyer’s market.

Here are some few expert tips that would guide you when purchasing a home in the sometimes frustration Vancouver seller’s market.

  1. Get adequate financing

It is very important that before you make the move to purchase a property, you put into careful consideration your credit score.

Normally, home buyers with lower scores use the secondary mortgage market to finance their purchase, as they’re more likely to pay a higher interest rate.However, it is advisable to get loan approval long before purchasing the house. This way, you are fully aware of how much you are able to spend—but never be tempted to borrow the maximum amount of money available.

“What’s your mortgage payment that you’re comfortable with? And take into the fact the taxes you’re going to have to pay, if it’s a strata – what the maintenance fees are, if it’s a home what type of maintenance are you going to have to pay in the future?” said Phil Moore, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver in a report.

Always be careful of the type of loan you secure and ensure that you can comfortably afford it over a long period of time.

  1. Get a real estate agent

Buying a property without professional help is a very risky move and can be likened to choosing to represent yourself in court without a lawyer. While you might trust your negotiation skills, only realtors are permitted to present offers directly.

Therefore, it is necessary to get a professional real estate agent in the area to represent you. So, screen a few agents and select the best one who has in-depth knowledge of the markets and has a great reputation.

“They’re there to protect you. They’re there to walk you through each step of the process,” Moore said.

  1. Sign up for automated alerts

Most—if not all—realtors have access to the Vancouver real estate board’s database which is updated approximately two days before the public MLS website.

Therefore, you can request from your realtor to sign you up for automatic real-time alerts of all new listings. Doing this gives you an edge as you’re among the very first to know about new properties.

  1. Do a thorough inspection

After receiving an alert for a new listing, it is necessary to push almost immediately for an inspection from your realtor. In this current market, buyers now have time to make an inspection.

Making a quick inspection eliminates any surprises—as there could be major maintenance or repair issues that could spring up. Therefore, you can now table your offer based on the outcome of the inspection, with clauses about claiming your damage deposit back if everything isn’t as was advertised.

Additionally, if you notice that renovations were done, you need to be sure that it was permitted work and carried out appropriately. Failing to do this would ultimately lead to further cost down the line and simultaneously affect the resale value.

  1. Have a back-up plan

There’s always the possibility that everything may not go as smoothly as you’d want. From the inspection being a failureto the property not living up to your expectations—or not being able to agree on the closing date that matches with your needs.

However, a professional real estate agent will definitely help you get past all of these things. If you plan on selling the property as you buy, you can table that and make it part of the deal.

“You’ve got an option, especially in a buyer’s market: you can put in an offer subject to selling your place. So maybe you want to have a place lined up,” Moore added.

Additionally, building contingencies into your buying plan is necessary. Things such as unexpected delays in closing the deal, closing cost and moving costs that could result in added living expenses if that’s your permanent home.

  1. Don’t fall for the buyer frenzy

The Vancouver market buying frenzy that caused a serious climb in the prices a couple of years ago has ended. Thus, it is important not to get caught up in bidding wars with properties that have been deliberately under-priced—with the hope of initiating multiple offers.

“Some of the sellers have been on the market for over a year and they’re eager to sell. So what I’m saying to consumers is: you have a lot of choices, you’re in the driver’s seat, let’s go out and take a look at what’s available,” said Moore.

  1. Never be wary of multiple offers

When purchasing a property, don’t be afraid of multiple offers as you have the same opportunity as anybody else.

Typically, there are just a few offers below the asking price: a couple priced fully, and two or three above the asking price—depending on how close the fair market value is from the asking price.

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Do you know what kind of condo you’re buying?

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(NC) Condominiums can come in all shapes and sizes. But it’s important to know that not all condos are created equal when it comes to warranty coverage.

Whether you’re buying a condominium townhouse, loft-style two-bedroom or a high-rise studio, they are all classified as condominiums if you own your unit while at the same time share access (and the associated fees) for facilities ranging from pools and parking garages to elevators and driveways, otherwise known as common elements.

The most common types of condos are standard condominiums and common elements condominiums. The determination of how a condominium project is designated happens during the planning stage when the builder proposes the project and the municipality approves it.

When you’re in the market to buy, you need to know how your chosen condo is classified because it affects the warranty coverage under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act. Standard condominiums have warranty coverage for units and common elements, but common elements condominiums only have unit coverage.

How could this affect you as the owner? If your condo complex has underground parking and, for example, there are problems with leaks or a faulty door, the condo designation will determine whether there’s warranty coverage.

If your unit is a standard condominium development, then the common elements warranty may cover the repairs. If it’s a common element condominium development, then repairs might have to be covered by the condo corporation’s insurance, which could impact your condo fees or require a special assessment on all the owners.

To avoid surprises, you should have a real estate lawyer review the Declaration and Description attached to your purchase agreement to be sure that you know the designation and boundaries of the unit you’re looking to purchase. Find more information on the types of condos and their coverage at tarion.com.

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