Grocer says updated definition of "local" is too broad

Federal government wants to expand current 50-kilometre local zone

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s decision to change the official meaning of “local” has raised the ire of at least one B.C. grocer.

The Kootenay Co-op in Nelson says the broadened definition “undermine what we feel is local, because what we feel is local is to support local farmers and understand who is producing your food,” Joe Karthein, a manager at the Kootenay Co-op, told the CBC.

Earlier this month, the CFIA announced an interim policy that defines "local" as anything produced and sold in the same province or territory, or within 50 kilometres of the originating province.

Previously, the government interpreted “local” as something only produced within 50 kilometres of where it’s sold. See details here.

The Co-op’s Jocelyn Carver said the revised definition is far too generous.

“To call something local just because it is within a province as huge as B.C. is misleading the consumer and it undermines the local suppliers who work hard to deliver products to their neighbourhoods and communities,” she said.

But according to the executive director of the food claims and labelling directorate at the CFIA, Daniel Miller, the updated policy had to take smaller provinces into account.

“In smaller provinces like P.E.I., something could be called local because the geography of is not that large, so it could be conceived as local,” he told Canadian Grocer.

And if a business wants to be more specific, they can add “qualifiers,” such as the name of the community in which the product was grown.

Miller said the CFIA decided to update its policy on “local” in part because “consumers and businesses have a range of views on how local is defined.”

He noted that the agency will review its food labelling regulations over the next year, in consultation with all stakeholders. The interim definition of “local” will remain in place until that process is complete.

Proper use of the term “local” is enforced by the Food and Drugs Act and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act.

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