How one guy in Saskatchewan caused a countrywide Marmite shortage

How one guy in Saskatchewan caused a countrywide Marmite shortage

British-Airways_Marmite Emergency cases of yeast paste en route to Canadian hoarders. (Image: I.D. Foods)
 

Here’s what a game of Broken Telephone looks like when it plays out on an international scale.

Earlier this year, a shopkeeper named Tony Badger learned that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency had blocked a shipment of European non-perishables that was headed for his British food store in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Based on a letter he received from the CFIA, Badger believed that some of the foods he was trying to import—most notably, cases of Marmite—had suddenly become illegal in Canada. That’s what he told a local newspaper, the Star Pheonix.

By the following day, the story was all over the British papers, some of which were claiming that Marmite and other Brit food products had been “banned” in Canada. An article in the Independent made snide comparisons between the relative safety of Marmite and handguns—which, the paper pointed out, were legal for purchase in Canada. (The Mirror took it one step further, calling Canada “a country where there are 31 guns for every hundred people, they hunt seals and black bears roam freely.”) Soon enough, Brit expats across Canada were frantically stocking up on the supposedly banned items.

That’s when the CFIA stepped in. It denied reports of a widespread Brit-food embargo, claiming that Tony Badger’s seizure was an isolated incident. (According to recent reports, Badger’s issues with the CFIA eventually forced him to close all three outlets of his specialty-food chain.) The agency also said that British formulations of certain products—including Marmite and the Scottish soda Irn-Bru—did technically violate Canada’s food-safety regulations, but that wasn’t anything new. It also said that compliant formulations designed for Canadian consumption were widely available.

Apparently, the message wasn’t comforting enough for Marmite fanatics. Three weeks after the upset, Canadian food importer I.D. Foods took to Facebook to urge Canadians to stop their hoarding behaviours, which it claimed were disrupting usual supplies of CFIA-approved Marmite in Canada. When that didn’t work, the company was reportedly forced to fly an additional 840 cases of Marmite over from England, supposedly to satisfy demand caused by the “unprecedented run on store shelves” in the days and weeks following the scare. That’s an extra 10,000 or so jars of fermented yeast paste flooding the Canadian marketplace. All because of one guy in Saskatchewan.