A proposal regarding shopkeeper-distributors under the Milk Act
For almost 60 years the Milk Act has existed to “stimulate, increase and improve the producing of milk within Ontario.” This proposal concerns the shopkeeper-distributor designation in the Milk Act as it relates to the production and distribution of ice cream.
40 years ago, it was almost impossible to find craft beer on Ontario beer store shelves, due in part to regulations that simply did not fit, and did not nurture a local craft beer industry. Today, craft beer defines Ontario and any visit by anyone to any town in Ontario is an opportunity to try the local brew. Local tourism agencies promote their breweries, and these breweries are part of the fabric of their community.
This proposal seeks to offer solutions to allow shopkeeper-distributors (S-Ds) to sell their ice cream in local stores in a way that addresses safety and allows S-Ds to create a local, artisan ice cream industry that doesn’t require overwhelming financial investments that in effect remove the incentive to be on local shelves, thereby diminishing choice for local consumers.
Proposal 1 – Geography
If an S-D can sell in their store, what would it require for them to have their product sold down the street or around the block? S-Ds are not looking to produce in a city like Ottawa to distribute in a city like Thunder Bay; they are not looking to fill the shelves of Costcos throughout the province. They want to sell where they produce. From the perspective of the consumer, this means that they know where their ice cream was made, and who made it. A S-D is accessible to the customer in a local market.
Proposed: S-Ds be restricted to a pre-defined local area for distribution that is reasonable in terms of a consumer’s ability to visit the S-D should they wish to.
Proposal 2 – Labelling
S-Ds are not required by CFIA to provide ingredient or nutrition labels on their products for items they sell at the site of production. Beginning in the new year, CFIA will require all wholesale food products to display nutrition labelling and ingredient statements that include the address and contact info for the producer of the product.
Proposed: That CFIA labelling be recognized under the Milk Act as an adequate measure for consumers to know sufficient information about the product they are consuming and how to contact the producer with any complaint or concern.
Proposal 3 – Transportation
Wholesaling of ice cream often outside of a local area can involve several shippers, across Ontario or across Canada. As a result, wholesalers can see their product transfer hands several times, actions that require tracking and enhanced measures at source to ensure safety.
Proposed: Shipments of ice cream by S-Ds to local retailers would be required to take place in vehicles owned and operated by the S-D, based on the principle of continuous control of the product from production to distribution.
Proposal 4 – Tracking, Testing and Reporting
Quality and safety are the reasons that S-Ds are allowed to sell on-site in the first place. By establishing control at the site of production, consumers can be assured that their product is safe. They also enjoy the benefit of supporting unique local products. Supplying local stores with local ice cream further strengthens the principle of supporting local as it allows for artisan ice cream makers to shape the local market, similar to craft beer, and establishes local ecosystems as a result.
S-Ds track their production and know which batch is where at all times.This principle can be easily extended to local distribution where both entities have a visible, local stake in their communities. As a result, S-Ds can use their tracking, test their batches and report their results to the ministry, but also publicly, similar to health inspection reports.
Proposed: S-Ds that wish to sell off-site in their defined local area, work with OMAFRA to ensure that tracking, testing and reporting addresses food safety. It is proposed that regulation 761 (82) be amended to prescribe the tracking, testing and reporting of ice cream made from already pasteurised mix. It is further proposed that this testing be made available to the public via the OMAFRA website. In doing so, this regime would create the designation of shopkeeper/”local” distributor. This designation would apply only to the specific geographic area where the shopkeeper operates. This designation would be in lieu of being a licensed dairy, the costs of which are prohibitive to shopkeeper ice cream shops, and are in effect a barrier to local wholesaling.
Taken together, these four proposals are presented to address what we believe is an opportunity to make Ontario known in North America as having the best ice cream anywhere! It is an opportunity to support unique local products, small businesses, and to reflect the intent of the Milk Act and its goal to stimulate, increase and improve the producing of milk within Ontario.