50km limit for local food

In this month’s issue of Gallon Environment Letter a lead editorial discusses how the federal regulatory agency, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, limits the claim of ‘local’ to food produced within 50km of the point of sale. As the editorial points out, while the rule states 50km, instead of the more widely recognized 100km, the interpretation of 50km is somewhat more complex.

The following is a summary of the responses on this subject from CFIA most recently received by Gallon Letter. The information is provided to assist our business readers to determine whether or not they are in compliance with CFIA requirements. The responses have not been edited except for length.

On 5 May 2011:

Gallon Letter: Can the CFIA provide us with information on why 50km or adjacent local government unit is rational policy? The key issue in this is 50km rather than some larger distance?

CFIA Answer:

The CFIA enforces the Food and Drugs Act and Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, as it relates to food. This legislation requires that information shown on food labels and advertisements must be truthful and not misleading to consumers.

The CFIA’s policy on the use of the term ‘local’ was developed a number of years ago and it is based on the definition of a “local food” in the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) as well as on a defined distance from origin.

The policy states, in part:

“Local,” “Locally Grown,” and any substantially similar term shall mean that the domestic goods being advertised originated within 50 km of the place where they are sold, measured directly, point to point, or meets the requirements of section B.01.012 FDR, whichever condition is least restrictive.

This means that a fruit or vegetable grown in the furthest corner of a large municipal area can be sold and advertised as a local food anywhere in that municipality, even if the distance between where the food is grown and where it is sold exceeds 50 km. The food may also be sold and advertised as “local” in any adjacent local government units.

In smaller municipalities, the food may be sold or advertised as “local” in any government unit within a 50 km radius, even if some of the government units are not adjacent.

This approach provides producers with flexibility and market access while providing consumers with information they need to make informed food choices.

The CFIA is aware that since this policy became effective, interest regarding claims about local food has grown tremendously. Interested consumers and stakeholders are always encouraged to share their feedback on CFIA policies. This feedback is taken seriously and will be taken into consideration in any future policy considerations.

In addition, the CFIA takes fraudulent labelling seriously. Consumers with concerns about food labelling practices at a particular retail outlet should first contact the store manager. If their concerns are not addressed, or if they have knowledge about a fraudulent situation where produce is intentionally being mislabelled, they are encouraged to contact the CFIA. All complaints are thoroughly looked into.

Contact the CFIA:
Telephone: -800-442-2342
Email: cfiamaster@inspection.gc.ca

On 19 April 2011:

Gallon Letter: What is the actual CFIA regulation governing ‘local’ claims on food? Is this an actual regulation? Or a guideline that is not being strictly enforced?

CFIA Answer: “Local”, “locally Grown”, and any substantially similar term shall mean that the domestic goods being advertised originated within 50 km of the place where they are sold, measured directly, point to point, or meets the requirements of section B.01.012 of the Food and Drug Regulations, whichever condition is least restrictive.

B.01.012………..”local food” means a food that is manufactured, processed, produced or packaged in a local government unit and sold only in
a) the local government unit in which it is manufactured, processed or packaged,
b) one or more local government units that are immediately adjacent to the one in which it is manufactured, processed, produced or packaged, or
c) the local government unit in which it is manufactured, processed, produced or packaged and in one or more local government units that are immediately adjacent to the one in which it is manufactured, processed, produced or packaged

The emphasis in interpreting the legislation is generally placed on “whichever condition is less restrictive” in defining local. A “local government unit” means a city, metropolitan area, town, village, municipality or other area of local government.

When the above requirements are met, the food can be considered compliant. Failure to meet these criteria could create a situation where the claim would be misleading and in possible non compliance with the Food and Drugs Act (section 5.1), and the CFIA could take enforcement action.

It should be noted that other terms such as “Product of Nova Scotia”, “Foodland Ontario”, ” Buy BC” or “Quebec Vrai,” etc. may be used to describe fresh produce which is produced and grown within a province but which does not meet the criteria for “local”.

For more information please see:
Guide to Food Labelling and Advertising: Decisions http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/labeti/decisions/compoe.shtml
Food and Drug Regulations (B.01.012)
http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/C.R.C.%2C_c._870/page-18.html

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