Selling fruits and vegetables at farmers' markets and at the farm gate

PDF Format - 153 KB


Accurate information helps consumers make informed decisions when purchasing fruits and vegetables. The Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 (FSQA) and Ontario Regulation 119/11 (Produce, Honey and Maple Products) (O. Reg. 119/11) regulate the quality, labelling, packaging and food safety issues for fresh fruits and vegetables in the province of Ontario. They apply to anyone who packs, transports, advertises, sells or offers produce for sale.

O. Reg. 119/11 sets out requirements for:

  • definitions and application
  • food safety and quality
  • grading for potatoes
  • packages and labels
  • advertising and retail display signs
  • misrepresentation

Do these requirements apply to sales of fruits and vegetables at farmers' markets and at the farm gate?

Yes. The requirements under the regulation apply to any produce that is packed, transported, advertised, sold or offered for sale. O. Reg. 119/11 defines produce as fruit and vegetables, sprouts, culinary herbs, nuts and edible fungi.

Information Requirements

O. Reg. 119/11 requires produce to be identified with specific information for labelling, signage and advertising.

Package Labelling

O. Reg. 119/11 sets out labelling requirements for all produce, unless it is of a type that is not commercially grown or harvested in Canada. These requirements are in addition to labelling requirements that may apply under the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act or the Food and Drugs Act. O. Reg. 119/11 requires that every label applied to a package or master container of produce must include:

  • the name and full address of the packer or the person on whose behalf the produce is packed
  • the country or province where the produce was grown or harvested
    • use the words "Product of", "Produce of", "Grown in" or "Country of Origin" followed by the country name where the produce was grown or harvested. This applies to produce grown or harvested in a country other than Canada. Example: Product of USA
    • use the words "Product of", "Produce of", "Grown in" or "Country of Origin" or "Province of Origin" followed by the word "Canada" or the name of the province where the produce was grown or harvested. This applies to produce grown or harvested in Canada. Examples: Product of Canada, Grown in Ontario
  • the common name of the produce if the produce can't be seen and identified through the packaging
  • in the case of potatoes (until July 1, 2016):
    • the grade name is required on the label of a package or master container above, beside or below the name of the country or province of origin and in the same print size as the name of the country or province of origin
  • in the case of yellow fleshed potatoes:
    • the words "yellow fleshed" if the word "potatoes" appears elsewhere on the package or master container or
    • the words "yellow fleshed potatoes" if the word "potatoes" does not appear elsewhere on the package or master container
  • in the case of peppers, the word "sweet" or "hot", as appropriate

Producers of nuts and edible fungi have until July 1, 2013 to comply with the requirement in O. Reg. 119/11 for the label to indicate country or province of origin.

Signs

All produce (both graded or ungraded) that can be commercially grown or harvested in Canada and that is on display and being offered for sale to consumers must have a sign on or immediately over the display of produce being offered for sale. Retail signs must indicate:

  1. the country or province in which the produce was grown or harvested
    1. use the words "Product of", "Produce of", Grown in" or "Country of Origin" followed by the name of the country in which the produce was grown or harvested. This applies to produce grown or harvested in a country other than Canada. Example: Product of USA or
    2. use the words "Product of", "Produce of", Grown in" or "Country of Origin" followed by the word "Canada" or the name of the province where the produce was grown or harvested. This applies to produce grown or harvested in Canada. Examples: Product of Canada, Grown in Ontario
  2. in the case of peppers, the word "sweet" or "hot" as appropriate
  3. if the produce is sold by weight, the price per unit of weight

Advertisements

Advertisements of produce (including graded potatoes) must indicate:

  1. the country or province where the produce was grown or harvested
    1. use the words "Product of", "Produce of", Grown in" or "Country of Origin" followed by the name of the country where the produce was grown or harvested. This applies to produce grown or harvested in a country other than Canada. Example: Product of USA or
    2. use the words "Product of", "Produce of", Grown in" or "Country of Origin" followed by the word "Canada" or the name of the province where the produce was grown or harvested. This applies to produce grown or harvested in Canada. Examples: Product of Canada, Grown in Ontario
  2. in the case of potatoes, the grade of the potatoes (until July 1, 2016)
  3. if the produce is packaged, the net quantity of the produce

Letter Size

Section 20(3) of O. Reg. 119/11 states that the print size for labels on packages is the same size that is required for produce labels set out in Section 12 of the federal Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Regulations under the Canada Agricultural Products Act.

Retail signs must be easy to read and of a letter size reasonable in proportion to the size of the sign.

Are there any exceptions to these requirements?

Labelling requirements do not apply to:

  • packages of raspberries or strawberries that are packaged in the field in containers of 1.14 litres or less
  • produce packaged in a wrapper or confining band of less than half an inch in width
  • master containers where the labels on the packages are easily and clearly discernible in the master container
  • packages of produce that are filled by customers from a bulk display

Can Foodland Ontario symbols be used to indicate product origin?

No. Foodland Ontario symbols are not considered a replacement for indicating product origin. They may be used in addition to proper retail display signage.

Examples

The following are two possible scenarios to help you understand the requirements:

Scenario 1

A farmers' market or farm gate vendor sells green beans and plums displayed in 1.1 litre boxes. When the customer purchases the produce, the vendor empties the produce from the 1.1 litre box into an unlabelled plastic/cloth bag or container.

  1. Does the displayed 1.1 litre box need a label?
    Yes. O. Reg. 119/11 requires that all consumer packages be labelled with specific information.
  2. Does the bag/container into which the 1.1 litre box is emptied need a label?
    No. After sale, the produce can be emptied into an unlabelled bag/container. A label is not required at this point since the customer is fully informed about their purchase.
  3. Does the label on the 1.1 litre box require grade identification?
    No. With the exception of potatoes, O.Reg. 119/11 does not have grade requirements for produce. Until June 30, 2016, when a vendor sells potatoes, under O.Reg. 119/11, the label must include the grade of the potatoes. On July 1, 2016, the Ontario potato grades will no longer be in effect.
Scenario 2

Flats containing 1.1 litre baskets of strawberries or raspberries are offered for sale at the farm gate. When the sale is completed, a 1.1 litre basket of berries is emptied into an unlabelled basket for the customer to take with them.

  1. Do the displayed 1.1 litre baskets and flats need to be labelled?
    If the 1.1 litre baskets of strawberries or raspberries were packed in the field, then labelling is not required on the 1.1 litre baskets, but is required on the flats.

    If the strawberries or raspberries were packed anywhere other than the field, then labelling is required on the 1.1 litre baskets, but not on the flats if the labelling on the baskets is easily and clearly readable.

    O. Reg. 119/11 requires that all master containers be labelled with specific information if the packages of produce contained in the master containers are not labelled or easily and clearly read. For this scenario, the flats require labelling if the 1.1 litre baskets are not labelled.

  2. When emptying berries from a displayed flat or displayed 1.1 litre basket into an unlabelled bag there is more risk of damaging the fruit. Is it acceptable to empty the displayed flat or displayed 1.1 litre basket of berries into an unlabelled bag or basket to prevent risk of damage to the fruit?

    Yes. The displayed flat or displayed basket of berries that is being emptied into an unlabelled bag or basket must be labelled according to the specific requirements of O. Reg. 119/11.

This infosheet is provided as a summary of the requirements of O. Reg. 119/11.


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 30 September 2010
Last Reviewed: 26 June 2014