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AMCO Produce fined $210K for passing off foreign vegetables as Canadian

Leamington greenhouse grower AMCO Produce was fined $210,000 Monday after federal food inspectors spent years chasing a massive paper trail that showed it was passing off Mexican-grown vegetables as Canadian products.

Federal prosecutor Paul Bailey said AMCO Produce Inc. mislabelled about $333,000 worth of produce, though it’s unclear how much the company profited from the deception.

Between 2012 and 2014, the company intentionally mislabelled foreign-grown produce including tomatoes and cucumbers as being products of Canada. The products were sold to Sobeys Inc. and other retailers.

The case began after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency did a random inspection at the Ontario Food Terminal, a Toronto distribution centre, in February 2013. In a section reserved for Ontario produce, inspectors saw a carton of peppers. The labels on the carton stated the contents were from Ontario.

“This was very suspicious given the fact that it was February,” Bailey said in court.

He said winter is generally “downtime” for producers because it’s too expensive to run greenhouses in the darker, colder months. Bailey said AMCO had also failed to report it was growing peppers in the winter, which was a requirement.

In addition to that, said Bailey, inspectors found AMCO tomatoes labelled as products of Canada for sale in local grocery stores.

Read more at the Windsor Star (Trevor Wilhelm)

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