Defining ‘local’

A blog post on Food Secure Canada reminded me of my recent comments on the Ontario Local Food Act. The post, titled Local – What’s in a Word?, opens a discussion on defining local. On May 10, 2013, CFIA released an interim policy on local food claims to be implemented immediately while they work on modernizing the approach to food labelling. This policy broadens the previous interpretation of “local” by expanding the borders, so-to-say:

Food produced in the province or territory in which it is sold, or

Food sold across provincial borders within 50km of the originating province or territory.

According to the interim policy, part of the rationale behind this new interpretation is that the old definitions “[do] not reflect…consumer needs and expectations.” I don’t know how to decipher the meaning of this; perhaps it implies that people’s expectations are more aligned with the global picture for food distribution or that it isn’t as important to people now to be able to distinguish between “made in my city” and “made in my province”.

We can acknowledge that putting a definition to “local food” is challenging because it is complex. There are many different factors to consider and sometimes it can depend even on the type of food itself. I’ll be interested in see the direction that CFIA moves in on this front.

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