Local Food Solutions Vol. 4

Access: Identifying Processed Food Origin

Previously, we talked about the challenges associated with identifying and tracking Ontario foods in order databases. There are more challenges, however, when it comes to processed foods. There is currently no industry-wide accepted definition for “Ontario Processed Food”. 

In order to promote Ontario agricultural products, Foodland Ontario created the following definition, which is what is used in the absence of any other commonly accepted definition:

Ontario Processed Food Products

Ontario processed food products must be made in Ontario from a majority of Ontario ingredients. More than 80 per cent of the total direct costs of production must return to Ontario. Primary agricultural ingredients will meet the individual Ontario foods definition.

Example: “Ontario Beef and Vegetable Soup". The primary ingredients, in this case beef and vegetables, would need to meet the individual Ontario food definitions.

In any case, food processors seldom track where their raw ingredients come from on product specification sheets or order sheets. However, being able to identify and measure Ontario foods is important as processed products make up a majority of public sector purchases.

More specifically, the barriers include:

  • Tracking all of the ingredients of processed foods on packaging or order sheets could be a cumbersome and confusing task due to the variety of food and the different points of origin.
  • The raw ingredients of processed food may change frequently. The ingredients will vary based on availability, market price, and a number of other factors, none of which are based on the origin of where the product was produced.
  • Not all processors have the ability to track and measure where all their ingredients are coming from as their software systems are not programmed to do so.

Steps to Identifying Ontario Processed Food:


  • Public institutions need to continue to drive demand for local products by asking their suppliers for Ontario processed food options. The more institutions that demand it, the more processors will respond to meet that demand.


  • OMAFRA should work with stakeholders to develop a definition of processed Ontario food that recognizes that the current definition leaves out a lot of products that many feel should be considered Ontario.


  • Given that there is a growing demand for Ontario processed food, some processors may want to have a dedicated line.

Keep your eyes open for our next Local Food Solution Paper where we will be talking about Access: Aggregation. Follow @ontariofresh on Twitter to join the conversation.

This series is written with contributions from: Ryan Hilborn, Kathy Macpherson, Franco Naccarato, Lisa Ohberg, and Julienne Spence.

If you want to know more about the value chain, consult Connecting the Links: Foodservice in the Broader Public Sector