“The popularity of local food in Alberta is growing, and new business models are developing in many communities,” says Jan Warren, new venture development specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF). “AF provides information and support for your new developing agriculture related business.”
“All the different market channels in the food continuum must know the legalities of business set up – such as regulations and insurance – and have a complete understanding of the food safety issues in the farm to fork continuum,” she says. “Food safety is a shared responsibility all down the food chain, including producers, operators of food premises, food handlers, regulatory agencies, educators and consumers. It is different for every type of business, from foodbank to mini-mart.”
She adds that Health Canada has developed standards for safety, quality and nutrition for all food sold in Canada and has given authority to provincial governments to manage food produced and sold within provincial borders.
Selling into one market channel – such as a farmers’ market – has completely different permits and packaging requirements than a restaurant, different expectations than a storefront, or shipping out of province.
“You will need to ask what different acts and regulations there are and how they need to be applied to your food business idea,” she says.
Usually, it falls on the food retail and food service industries to have the primary responsibility for ensuring the safety of their foods and they are expected to provide a reasonable level of descriptive product information so that consumers can make informed decisions.
Warren offers a list of resources. “The most important is the Alberta Public Health Act, and under that, Food Regulation. These regulations govern food manufacturers, distributors, restaurants, caterers, and farmers markets. Municipal and local regulations need to be looked at as well. Farm direct marketing: know the regulations – general legislation; also Business basics for Alberta food processors: a planning guide, are just some of the useful resources found on Alberta.ca.”
Not for profit organizations wishing to develop local food accessibility for their community or an at-risk population, can receive support from the federal Local Food Infrastructure Fund.