CFIA: What makes ‘local’ food local?

Federal food inspectors will now allow a much broader geographic definition in food marketers’ use of the word “local” while the label claim undergoes regulatory review.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Friday it will include that particular label claim, among others, in its broader review of federal food labelling regulations, guidelines and policies.

Until now, CFIA has interpreted terms such as “local” and “locally grown” to mean a food that originated either within a 50-km radius of the place where it was sold, or within the same or an adjacent “local government unit” (for example, a town, county or municipality).

However, the agency said Friday, it now recognizes “this approach is outdated and does not reflect current food production practices or consumer needs and expectations.”

Thus, CFIA said, its new interim policy recognizes “local” as food produced in the province or territory in which it’s sold — or as food sold across provincial borders but within 50 km of the originating province or territory.

The new interim policy will be implemented “immediately,” CFIA said Friday, and will stay in effect until the agency’s labelling review is complete.

Meanwhile, food marketers’ use of the claim “local” is still subject to rules on false and misleading claims in both the Food and Drugs Act and Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, the agency warned.

The agency emphasized Friday that claims such as “local” are voluntary. The industry is also encouraged to add “qualifiers,” such as the name of a city, to provide consumers with “additional information,” CFIA said.

It’s also still the responsibility of the regulated party — that is, the food producer and/or marketer — to comply with applicable legislation and regulations, the agency said.

The word “local” has become a particularly popular marketing device for foods since about 2005, as the “locavore” trend has continued to evolve.

Annual surveys of chefs, published each April by the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, have found “locally produced and locally inspired” to be the top menu trend in each of the past four years.

Related stories:
Ontario reboots “local food” legislation, March 26, 2013
Canada asked to address “reality” of food insecurity, May 16, 2012
Buy local, but ignore the “locavores” nonsense (column), Oct. 7, 2010
NDP’s food report urges public incentives for local foods, June 22, 2010

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