Guidelines for Non-Shopkeeper-Distributors

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Do I Require a Non-Shopkeeper Distributor Licence?
  3. Tips on Completing the Application
  4. Application Submission
  5. Licensing Process
  6. Inspections
  7. Licence Terms and Conditions

Pursuant to the Milk Act (R.S.O. 1990, c.M12, and Regulation 761)


In Ontario, the distribution of fluid milk products is regulated to ensure they are stored and distributed under conditions that will maintain product safety and quality. A 'distributor' is a person engaged in selling or distributing fluid milk products directly or indirectly to consumers. A distributor is classed as either a 'shopkeeper-distributor' or a 'non-shopkeeper-distributor'.

A Shopkeeper-distributor is an operator of a shop who is engaged in buying fluid milk products from a non-shopkeeper-distributor and selling or distributing on the shop premises more than 50 per cent by volume of the fluid milk products directly to consumers. Shopkeeper-distributors are typically retailers who purchase and sell a majority of their fluid milk products directly to consumers from the shop premise. Shopkeeper-distributors are inspected by local public health units under the authority of the Health Protection and Promotion Act (Ontario) and Regulation 493/17 - Food Premises.

A Non-shopkeeper-distributor is a person engaged in selling or distributing fluid milk products directly or indirectly to consumers, but who is not a shopkeeper-distributor.Non-shopkeeper distributors are typically wholesalers (someone who purchases for resale) who sell the majority of their fluid milk products to other distributors (e.g. retailers). Ontario Non-shopkeeper-distributors must be licensed by the Director, Food Safety Inspection Delivery Branch, Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) under the authority of the Milk Act (Ontario). OMAFRA Dairy Food Safety program staff conduct inspections of delivery vehicles and storage facilities to verify compliance with regulatory requirements and make recommendations for licensing.

Do I Require a Non-Shopkeeper Distributor Licence?

A licence is required when a business conducts the activities of a non-shop keeper distributor. Operating as a non-shopkeeper distributor without a licence is prohibited and subject to penalty.

Activities requiring a non-shopkeeper-distributor licence:

  • Less than 50 per cent by volume of your fluid milk products are sold directly to consumers and,
  • You process and sell fluid milk products, or
  • You buy and sell fluid milk products wholesale, or
  • You operate a shop (i.e., shopkeeper) that also conducts wholesale activities.

Fluid milk products include buttermilk, cream, double cream, flavoured cream, flavoured milk, flavoured partly-skimmed milk, flavoured skim-milk, milk, milk beverages, partly-skimmed milk, skim-milk, table cream and whipping cream.

A milk beverage is a milk product containing not less than 51% milk, and containing no more than 0.5% non-milk fat or oil when:

  1. the non-milk fat or oil is contained in a flavouring agent, or
  2. the non-milk fat or oil contains omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and allows a product nutrient content claim to be made accordingly.

In addition, milk beverages may contain added fruit, fruit pulp, fruit juices, vegetables, vegetable pulp, vegetable juices, nuts, carbon dioxide, bacterial cultures, salt, pH adjusting agents, stabilizers, sweeteners, lactase, flavouring and food colouring.

Milk products are products processed or derived from milk and include butter, cheese, cream cheese, yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, milk powder and ice cream.

For more information on fluid milk products and milk products see Regulation 753 - Grades, Standards, Designations, Classes, Packing and Marking of the Milk Act (Ontario).

Completing the Application

Application forms are available from the Dairy Food Safety program area within the Inspection Programs Unit by:

Email: or,

Telephone: 519-400-5485.

The following definitions explain terms used on the Non-Shopkeeper-Distributor application form and are numbered according to numbered sections of the form.

1. The Legal Business Name is the registered legal name of the business entity. Please ensure you provide the legal business name when filling out this section.

The Applicant is the person applying for a licence as a non-shopkeeper-distributor.

2. A Depot location is a site under the care and control of the non-shopkeeper distributor at which fluid milk products are stored or transferred as part of the operation of a business as a non-shopkeeper-distributor.

Depot location types include the following:

a) Building with refrigeration equipment

b) Refrigerated warehouse

c) Immobilized refrigerated trailer

d) Cross-dock

A Cross-dock is a depot location where products are transferred from one truck to another. Locations could include a commercial cross dock or parking lot.

3. A Supplier is a company that supplies a non-shopkeeper-distributor with fluid milk products for resale or distribution. Suppliers include provincially licensed dairy plants, out-of-province processors and other non-shopkeeper distributors.

4. Delivery vehicles include the straight body truck or trailer operated by a non-shopkeeper-distributor that is used to temporarily store and deliver fluid milk products. Delivery vehicles must:

i) be capable of maintaining the internal product temperature between 0 and 4°C at all times, and

ii) meet inspection criteria as outlined below in this guideline.

5. Non-Dairy Products include all products other than milk products. Non-dairy products include meat, poultry, eggs, fish, fruits, vegetables, packaged food products, dry goods, cleaning supplies, chemicals and any other non-food items.

6. Segregation or 'separation' of fluid milk products and milk products from other non-dairy products is required to prevent contamination. Different types of segregation include physical barriers (e.g., bulkhead, partition), skids or pallets wrapped with impervious material, and adequate space between fluid milk products and non-dairy products. See 'Inspection Criteria' below for more details on segregation.

7. Application Fees

The fee structure for a non-shopkeeper-distributor licence is made up of three parts including a base annual fee, an additional depot location fee (if applicable), and an additional delivery vehicle fee (if applicable).

A base annual fee of $150 per year covers the licensing of one depot location and up to five delivery vehicles.

An additional depot location fee of $60 per year is applied for each additional depot location.

An additional delivery vehicle fee of $25 per year is applied for each delivery vehicle in excess of five to a maximum of 10 delivery vehicles. Any delivery vehicles beyond 10 are not charged an additional fee.

Example #1: You have one depot location and seven delivery vehicles

Annual fee $150
Additional depot location fee: 0 (not applicable)
Delivery vehicle fee $ 50 (2 X $25 for delivery vehicles 6 and 7)
Total licence fee $200

Example #2: You have two depot locations and 12 delivery vehicles

Annual fee $150
Additional depot location fee $ 60 (one)
Delivery vehicle fee $125 (5X$25 for delivery vehicles 6, 7, 8, 9 and10)
Total licence fee $335

If you have questions regarding completion of this application please contact us at or by telephone at 1-519-400-5485.

Application Submission

Cheques are to be made payable to the "Minister of Finance".

Licence fees are only payable by cheque. Cheques that are deemed to be non-sufficient funds (NSF) will be subject to a $35 administrative fee.

Complete, sign and date the Application for a Non-Shopkeeper-Distributor Licence form. Please note that incomplete and/or illegible applications will be returned.

Mail application and cheque to:

Inspection Programs Unit
Food Safety Inspection Delivery Branch
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
1 Stone Road West, 5th Floor NW
Guelph, ON N1G 4Y2

Licensing Process

Once your completed application and cheque are received, staff from the Dairy Food Safety program area will be assigned to conduct the inspection of depot locations and vehicles. Upon notification that your business has been inspected and met the regulatory requirements, your new licence will be processed and mailed to you.


Depot locations and delivery vehicles are inspected prior to the issuance of a new non-shopkeeper-distributor licence and may be conducted at any time thereafter. Failure to observe and maintain requirements may result in suspension or revocation of a licence.

The following inspection criteria will be used by staff to evaluate compliance with applicable regulatory requirements as outlined in Regulation 761 under the Milk Act (Ontario) and Regulation 493/17 under the Health Protection and Promotion Act (Ontario):

Structure and Maintenance

The interior surfaces of depot locations and delivery vehicles shall be of sound and tight construction, and made of material that can be readily cleaned and sanitized. Light fixtures should be in good repair and light bulbs protected with shatterproof covers or coatings. Openings and doors should be tight-fitting and gaskets maintained to prevent the entry of pests and environmental contaminants. Exterior perforations should also be repaired promptly to reduce temperature fluctuations. Fluid milk storage facilities, including shelves, racks, and pallets, shall be kept clean and in good condition.

Refrigeration Units

Refrigeration units in storage facilities containing fluid milk products shall be operational when in use. This includes refrigerated storage rooms (such as coolers) and delivery vehicles. Refrigeration units shall be kept clean and condensate properly drained as necessary.

Temperature Control

Fluid milk products shall be maintained, transported, displayed, stored and offered for sale at an internal temperature above freezing and not higher than 4°C. This requires properly operating reefer units in warm weather, and may require heating units in very cold weather. Storage coolers and delivery vehicles should be equipped with accurate, easy-to-read thermometers located inside the storage area.

Product Condition and Handling

Fluid milk products shall be adequately protected from all sources of potential contamination such as exposure to toxic substances, vermin, or any other foreign object or thing that could degrade product safety or quality. Container surfaces shall be kept clean and in good condition. Any leaked products should be removed promptly and spills thoroughly cleaned up. If using the same delivery vehicle or container for transporting different foods, or for transporting non-food products, it must be effectively cleaned and, if necessary, sanitized between loads.

Segregation from non-dairy products

Fluid milk products and milk products must be adequately separated or 'segregated' from non-dairy products such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables, packaged food products, dry goods, cleaning supplies, chemicals and any other non-food items.

Fluid milk products are ready-to-eat products that must be protected from spillage or absorption of strong odours from non-compatible products (e.g., citrus, onions).

Acceptable means of segregating fluid milk products from non-dairy products include:

  • a physical barrier: a separate container such as a cooler or enclosed skid, a solid washable bulkhead or partition, or an impervious barrier such as metal, rubber or plastic to prevent seepage of liquids and odours;
  • wrapped skids/pallets: skids or pallets of product are wrapped with plastic or some other impervious material to prevent seepage of liquids and odours; and
  • adequate space: a linear distance at least equal to the stacked height of a non-dairy product that is a potential contaminant (e.g., raw meat or poultry), such that if the stack of potential contaminant falls over, the dairy product would not be contacted.

Handling of Returns

Finished products may be returned from a retailer ('returns') to a processing plant for several reasons including expired shelf life, customer complaints and recalls. Returns may contaminate your delivery vehicle or other dairy products in your care. Properly segregate returns from other food products during transport and have them removed as soon as possible. Thoroughly clean, and if necessary, sanitize delivery vehicle after handling returns.

Licence Terms and Conditions

Non-shopkeeper-distributor licences must be renewed annually. Prior to the expiry date a renewal application form will be mailed to you. Please complete the application form, and return it along with payment (cheque made payable to the 'Minister of Finance') at least 60 days prior to the expiry date to avoid a penalty.

Your business name and address will be added to a public list of licensed non-shopkeeper-distributors posted on the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs website under 'Distribution'.

A licence as a distributor is non-transferable. You are required to immediately surrender your licence to the Director if you cease to carry on business as a non-shopkeeper-distributor. Please contact our office if you cease operations or if you sell your business so that we may update our records:

Phone: 1-519-400-5485


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300