Federal regulation of local and sustainable food claims in Canada: a case study of Local Food Plus [Book Review]

Agriculture and Human Values 27 (2):177-188 (2010)
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Interest in purchasing local food from suppliers who follow sustainable practices is growing in Canada. Such suppliers wish to have their products recognized in the market so that price premiums might be received, and new markets developed. In response, the organization Local Food Plus (LFP) developed standards and a certification process to authenticate local and sustainable claims. LFP provides certification seals, and labeling provisions for qualifying producers and processors. However, given pre-existing national food labeling rules, it is not evident that existing regulations permit such claims. Using LFP as a case, this study examined whether current federal labeling rules might impede the marketing of local and sustainable claims. Key findings include that the use of the terms natural, sustainable, and local in panel language and on shelf-talkers could be contested; and that the absence of specific regulation of numerous pertinent terms means they can only be assessed against general fraud prevention regulations, resulting in case-by-case determinations of compliance. Sustainability food label approvals in Canada, based on these general provisions, have not always been favorable to sustainable producers and firms. Existing regulation of these potentially contested terms appears to be out of step with other policy-related developments at the federal level and / or conceptual developments in the field. Proposals are made for amending existing rules to better support local and sustainable claims



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