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Feds introduce new definition for “local” food

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced an initiative to modernize Canada’s food labelling approach by changing our definition of “local” food


Ottawa – The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) announced in May changes to Canada’s definition of local food – an initiative that aims to modernize the country’s food labelling approach.

The changes are part of an interim policy, which the CFIA implemented immediately and will remain in effect until the CFIA’s labelling review is complete.

The CFIA adds that consultations – input from consumers, industry and other stakeholders – during the modernization of its food labelling approach will help inform CFIA on future direction.

The use of the claim “local” is still subject to prohibitions relating to false and misleading claims of the Food and Drugs Act as well as the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act.

New definition

For decades, the CFIA defined local food as food that is produced within a 50-km radius of where it’s sold, or the food sold originated within the same local government unit (a municipality, for example) or adjacent government unit.

But under a new interim policy, the CFIA has expanded that definition to mean:
• food produced in the same province in which it’s sold, or
• food sold across provincial borders within 50 km of the originating province or territory.

The CFIA adds that the new definition is a broad interpretation of the current policy and there are a variety of views on how the term “local” should be defined.

Variety of views on “local”

A story in TheNelsonDaily.com reports that the CFIA responded to queries regarding the new definition.

The newspaper says the reason for the CFIA implementing this change in policy 
is because there are a variety of views on how the term “local” should be defined.

In an e-mail to the paper, a spokesperson for the CFIA said: “The CFIA reviewed the approach taken by some of Canada’s key trading partners, such as the U.S., and held discussions with its federal, provincial and territorial partners and the Consumer Association Roundtable.”

As part of the Agency’s labelling modernization initiative, the CFIA will consult industry and consumers on the approach to food labelling, including the claim “local.”

“In the meantime, the CFIA has put in place an interim policy, which will remain in place until the labelling initiative is complete.”

The spokesperson went onto say that it’s important for the public and retailers to know that claims such as “local” are voluntary, says TheNelsonDaily.com.

“In order to provide consumers with more information, the CFIA encourages the addition of qualifiers where the term ‘local’ is used.”

The spokesperson explained to the paper that, for example, “the name of a city could be added to a label with a ‘local’ claim. The use of the claim ‘local’ remains subject to prohibitions relating to false and misleading claims set out in the Food and Drugs Act as well as the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act. The CFIA’s interim policy does not override these requirements. It is intended to provide an interpretation of the definition of ‘local.’”