New Canadian Definition of “Local Food” Ignites Debate

New Canadian Definition of “Local Food” Ignites Debate

As National BBQ Day preparations begin to heat up here at Meal Exchange (have you registered your event yet?), a debate across Canada has ignited putting into question the definition of “local food.”

A burger joint in Alliston, ON came under fire last month for advertising their beef burgers as “local” even though the beef was raised 200 km away from the restaurant. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) threatened to fine the restaurant $50,000 for violating its policy on the definition of “local”, which previously recognized “local” as “food originated within a 50 km radius of the place where it is sold.”

Ontario Premier, Kathleen Wynne, called on the federal government to change its definition of local food stating current regulations are “too narrow” and don’t work for the interests of farmers. The CFIA announced on May 10, 2013 that it would conduct a review of labelling regulations, guidelines and policies, putting into effect an interim policy that now recognizes “local” as “food produced in the province or territory in which it is sold.”

The Good & the Bad

Since coming into effect, the new definition has caused controversy across the nation, with Canadians chiming in to either support or criticize the latest update. Supporters of the update called the previous definition “antiquated” and believe that the broader classification of ”local” will open up more opportunities for farmers across each province. The change will benefit rural communities where distance between producers and consumers can easily exceed 50 km, as well as metropolitan cities where local food is also more difficult to come by within a 50 km range. Eating local foods grown anywhere in the province, still supports farmers and the economy in each respective province.

Local food has become a popular trend amongst restaurants, with more sourcing from farms nearby to support farmers and reduce their carbon footprint. Concern has been raised that restaurants and retailers will take advantage of the local food trend and broader definition, to market and profit from the food they sell. Advocates of eating local food have also stated that the new designation of “local” will disrupt the flow of food economies in communities – it’s necessary to support farmers directly in the area, rather than across the province. They have suggested that labelling regulations encompass both “locally-grown” and “provincially-grown” labels.

Celebrate Local Food in Your Backyard

When you fire up the grill on July 13, 2013 for National BBQ Day, don’t stress trying to figure out exactly how many kilometers away from your backyard the local foods you’ve bought were grown.  Simply try to buy local foods that have been grown as close to you as possible. It’s all about discovering local foods around your area, getting to know your local farmers and having a summertime celebration with family and friends.

How do you think “local food” should be defined in Canada? Weigh in on the “local food” debate in the comments section below.