How the CFIA defines “local”, “natural”

Remember the story that was in the news April 2nd about that Alliston gourmet burger restaurant that ran afoul of the CFIA when someone apparently complained that their “advertised as local” burgers weren’t local enough. How was local described there?

“The CFIA has told him the term local can only be used if the product was manufactured, packaged or processed in the municipality where his business is located or its neighbouring municipalities, which in this case includes Adjala-Tosorontio, Essa, Bradford West Gwillimbury, Innisfil, King and Caledon….”

Doesn’t sound like a very definitive definition, does it? Not exactly something you could apply to any other situation or locality. Well now, at least, we’ve got a better definition from the CFIA. And it’s a very strict definition.

While the originators of the local eating idea originally described local eating in terms of a 100-mile diet, it would seem that the CFIA concluded that was not good enough for Canadians; the CFIA has apparently decided to enforce a 50 Km limit on anyone who wants to describe their food as “local”.  Catherine Porter breaks that news in her column in today’s Toronto Star.

“How is your 50-kilometre diet going?

That’s how far your food can travel if you want to call it “local,” according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

That would make the Norfolk county apple I ate for lunch “foreign” or “exotic” or “non-native,” or whatever the CFIA deems the opposite of local.

I discovered this Wednesday after a visit to Real Food for Real Kids kitchen in the city’s west end. A couple months ago, it was a local food pioneer, serving local, healthy lunches and snacks to 200 daycares and schools in the city. Since a recent visit from a CFIA inspection agent, it now serves Ontario-grown, healthy lunches and snacks to those same kids.

“To me, local means can I get there before lunch — can I drive there, meet the farmer, inspect the farm and get home in a day?” co-owner David Farnell said, guiding me around the industrial kitchen, where cooks chopped Leamington cucumbers (no longer local), blended Brantford carrots (no longer local) and whipped up a dill dip using Organic Meadows sour cream (still organic, no longer local.)

“People’s commutes are longer than 50 kilometres. Is that not a local job?”

The CFIA is usually in the news for cracking down — or not cracking down — on tainted sandwich meat. But, it also enforces food labelling and advertizing guidelines.

Under those guidelines, the word “local” is defined as goods that originated within 50 kilometres, or within the same “local government unit” or adjacent “local government unit.”

Oh, to dine on local Mississauga-grown beets, Pickering-raised beef, and a glass of New Market Riesling . . . Someone better tell the LCBO to take down the local wine section. Those Niagara vineyards might as well be in Chile — they aren’t local. Clearly, no one has complained to the CFIA yet. (Most of the CFIA’s annual 3,000 inspections are triggered by complaints, according to its website.)…”

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2 responses to “How the CFIA defines “local”, “natural”

  1. aed939

    OK well, then, rather than dealing with definitions, advertise the actual source and distance of each food ingredient, and let the consumers decide for themselves whether that’s close enough–rather than relying on the government’s definitions. Maybe there’s another term you can use, such as “regional”

  2. charles jasunas

    To make things right and fair for everyone you have to get rid of the CFIA. The only way Canadian rights can stay in tact is by removing what is corrupt !

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