Canada Bread, a business owned by Mexico-based bakery company Grupo Bimbo, has been fined following a price-fixing probe.

The Canada-based bakery pleaded guilty to four counts of price-fixing and was order to pay a C$50m ($38m) fine by the Ontario Superior Court yesterday (21 June). However, Canada’s Competition Bureau, which led the probe, recommended the bread company should be given leniency due to its full cooperation in the case.

In a statement, the Bureau said Canada Bread’s price-fixing was connected to two price increases in 2007 and 2011. It added the company admitted to arranging price increases with its competitor Western Foods for products such as sandwich bread, hot dog buns and rolls.

At the time of the price-fixing episodes, Canada Bread was owned by another Canadian business, Maple Leaf Foods. Grupo Bimbo then bought the bakery company in 2014.

In its own statement, Canada Bread said Grupo Bimbo was unaware of the price-fixing at the time of the acquisition and it only came to its notice in 2017.

Alice Lee, vice president at Canada Bread, said: “Under new ownership, Canada Bread is committed to being a responsible partner to our valued customers and making bread an accessible and reliable food source for Canadians. We are pleased to have resolved this matter, and we look forward to building upon our investments in Canada.”

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The Competition Bureau said the probe into producers raising wholesale bread prices is still ongoing and the fine for Canada Bread is “a significant milestone”.

Matthew Boswell, the Bureau’s commissioner, added: “Fixing the price of bread – a food staple of Canadian households – was a serious criminal offence. Our continuing investigation remains a top priority. We are doing everything in our power to pursue those who engage in price-fixing.”

In December 2017, Canadian food group Weston Foods and supermarket Loblaw, both subsidiaries of George Weston, announced their participation in what they described as an “industry-wide price-fixing arrangement” involving the coordination of retail and wholesale bread prices.

In exchange for their full cooperation with the Competition Bureau’s investigation, Weston, Loblaw and George Weston received immunity from prosecution.

Meanwhile, last year the Bureau launched an ongoing investigation into the country’s grocery retail sector connected with pricing.

It is still investigating retailers Metro, Sobeys, Wal-Mart Canada and Giant Tiger Stores, along with Maple Leaf Foods.