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Bread price-fixing, dairy industry make top 2018 food stories: Charlebois

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A lot happened in 2018 food-wise, from E. Coli outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce to dairy supply management problems.

Sylvain Charlebois, who researches food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University, gave his two cents on the food stories that dominated this year.

Even though the story came out at the end of 2017, Charlebois points to bread price-fixing as something that dominated headlines in the beginning of the year.

However, he thinks there wasn’t a whole lot of attention given to the matter aside from the $25 gift card offered to consumers.

Another one on Charlebois’s list is Maple Leaf Foods’ decision to build a $660-million facility in London.

Maple Leaf Foods is expected to open the new facility in 2021. (CBC)

“A lot of people underappreciate how significant these decisions are,” he said.

“In the U.S., over the last decade, they were able to build almost 4,000 brand-new food processing plants and we’ve barely seen about 20 in Canada during the same period.”

While there’s good news there, Charlebois said dairy farmers are feeling a bit nervous with the new trade deals signed recently.

“We need to find supply and management 2.0,” said Charlebois.

According to Charlebois, the supply and management system set in place for dairy only accounts for producing enough products for the domestic demand. Now that “we’re allowing more products into the Canadian market,” he said an imbalance is created.

U.S. health officials have traced a dangerous bacterial outbreak in romaine lettuce to at least one farm in central California. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

Romaine lettuce was also on top of people’s minds a few times with E. Coli outbreaks linked to produce originating from Arizona and California. Charlebois said people can expect more of these types of problems because of “global food supply chains.”

However, even if that happens, Charlebois said the outbreaks have been contained very quickly.

Moving into 2019, he anticipates the federal election will make things interesting because the new NAFTA hasn’t been ratified yet, where concessions in dairy were made.

“We’re going to see a new food guide for the first time in more than a decade,” he said. “Edibles will become legal in Canada, so that’s another interesting story in the food industry over the next little while.”

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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year

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Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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