Organic Regulation in Ontario

There is a gap in Ontario's organic regulation system.

According to Ontario's Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), products produced and sold within the same province are not regulated under the Canada Organic Regime unless they use the Canadian Organic Logo (“the logo”).

Although the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) does have some jurisdiction in this matter, it does not typically investigate or enforce the Canada Organic Regime unless products cross provincial borders, or bear the logo.

This means that consumers may be misled by the use of the term "organic" to describe foods do not meet the Canadian Organic Standards, in provinces where no additional regulation exists.

josh_thatcher“As a certified organic retailer, we won’t carry an organic product unless it is certified to the federal standard. Many times that means that we have to turn down Ontario producers, or prioritize non-local ones, due to the lack of regulation in Ontario.

As a community engaged merchant and large retailer, trust in our standards and the products we carry is imperative. We can’t jeopardize that by allowing products on our shelves that aren’t traceably certified to the federal standard."

- JOSHUA THATCHER | Store Team Leader
Whole Foods Market – Lansdowne Park, Ottawa

Why is this a concern?

Use of the term “organic” by non-certified operators:
  1. Creates consumer confusion,
  2. Provides non-certified operations with an unfair advantage, and
  3. Weakens the organic brand.

Only 57% of farms making organic claims are certified organic in Ontario. At farmers’ markets, only 10% of the 33% of farms making organic claims were certified. OCO often receives anecdotal accounts of other businesses, such as restaurants, caterers, and distributors, using the term "organic" to describe their business or products even though they are not certified.

mario_thmbnailToday's food industry is bursting with marketing terms that confuse consumers.  The organic certification system is the only system in Canada that provides true legitimacy to products farmed and produced to higher ecological standards. It's imperative that any loopholes in the regulation system be fixed so that consumer confidence in organic food remains high.

-  Mario Fiorucci, Founder | The Healthy Butcher |


What can be done to resolve this issue?

The Organic Council of Ontario proposes that an Ontario Organic Regulation be developed with the purpose of clarifying how the term “organic” may be used within Ontario. The goal of this regulation would be to increase consumer confidence in Ontario Organic and respond to increased market demand for organic products by providing more business supports to organic operators.

To date, five other provinces have taken action to regulate organic products. It is time for Ontario to do the same.


The Ask

We call on the Government of Ontario to consult with Ontario’s organic sector via OCO to produce and implement regulations that are in line with the Canada Organic Standard, and that are comparable to those of other Canadian provinces.

An ideal regulation for Ontario would include:

  • capacity for enforcement and significant penalties for offences (as in Quebec and Manitoba);
  • transitional supports for small-scale operations, new entrants and diversified farms who wish to certify;
  • a provision to allow for information sharing by certification bodies to support a provincial data strategy;
  • provisions for monitoring & retail labelling; and,
  • provisions to allow fee collection for sector supports (e.g. an amendment to exempt "organic" from the definitions of commodities represented by other marketing boards)


What do you think?

Do you support Organic Regulation in Ontario? Send a letter to your MPP.

Different areas of the organic sector have unique perspectives. We've made every effort possible to be inclusive and consider the concerns of all organic stakeholders, but there may be issues we've missed. Please tell us how organic regulation will affect you, or let us know if you see any potential issues.

[Please note that OCO is NOT the regulating body and has no power to enfore organic regulations. If you would like to launch an official complaint, you may do so through the Canada Food Inspection Agency, which is the regulating body that enforces the Canada Organic Regime.]