Grade, Container and Label Requirements for Honey in Ontario

Introduction

Ontario Regulation 119/11 - Produce, Honey and Maple Products (O. Reg. 119/11) is a provincial regulation under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001. It sets out legal requirements for grading, packaging, labelling, transporting and selling honey in Ontario. Any person who packs, transports or sells honey that is packed in a non-federally registered or licenced establishment in Ontario must ensure the honey complies with the requirements under this regulation.

This provides a summary of the grade, container and label requirements for honey under O. Reg. 119/11. For complete details of all requirements, please refer directly to O. Reg. 119/11, which is available at ontario.ca/laws.

These requirements are in addition to applicable federal legislation such as the Food and Drugs Act or the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations.

O. Reg. 119/11 does not apply to honey that is packed or repacked in a federally registered or licensed establishment. For information about regulations that apply to these establishments, please consult the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) at www.inspection.gc.ca.

Grade and Colour Classification Requirements

Anyone who packs, sells or transports honey (including bulk honey) that is offered for sale or intended for sale directly to a consumer or retail outlet must grade and assign a colour class to the honey in accordance with sections 8, 9, and 11 of O. Reg. 119/11.

Grade and colour classification can be carried out by the packer or producer, or a person acting on their behalf; and must occur before the honey is transported or sold to the consumer.

If honey is re-packed, then the re-packer of the honey must ensure that the honey is labelled with the correct grade and colour class.

Grade and colour classification are not required for:

  • comb honey,
  • honey in containers less than 150 grams, or
  • honey that is produced in the producer's own apiary and sold directly to a consumer from the producer's residence. This is commonly referred to as "farm gate" honey.

Grade

Grade is determined by several factors; including moisture content, flavour, percent water insoluble solids, and the presence of foreign materials. A complete list of requirements for each grade can be found in Table 2 of O. Reg. 119/11. Honey must be labelled as either "Ontario No. 1", "Ontario No. 2" or "Ontario No. 3" in accordance with this table.

Colour

Table 3 of O. Reg. 119/11 provides the requirements for four applicable colour classes: "White", "Golden", "Amber", or "Dark". Honey must be classified for colour in accordance with this table, and colour classification must occur while the honey is in liquid form.

Container requirements

Container requirements are set out in section 17 of O. Reg. 119/11.

A consumer container is any container of honey that has a capacity of five kilograms or less. All consumer containers of honey must be new, clean, sound, and securely closed. Honey (other than comb honey and farm gate honey) must be sold in the following container sizes:

  • Any net weight up to and including 150 grams
  • 250 grams
  • 330 grams
  • 375 grams
  • 500 grams
  • 750 grams
  • 1 kilogram
  • 1.5 kilograms
  • 2 kilograms
  • 3 kilograms
  • 5 kilograms

A bulk container is any container of honey that has a capacity greater than five kilograms. Bulk containers of honey must be clean and sound.

Label Requirements

Label requirements are set out in section 21 of O. Reg. 119/11. Label requirements depend on several factors including the size of the retail container, the type of honey, and the retail location (retail vs. farm gate).

Retail Honey

Honey that is sold from any location other than the producer's place of residence is commonly referred to as "retail" honey. Retail honey in containers of more than 150 grams must have a label with:

  • the name and full address of the packer or the person on whose behalf the honey is packed (such as a retailer, producer, or other person)
  • the word "honey/miel" or, where applicable, "comb honey/miel en rayon"
  • notice that comb honey contains cells of pollen, if applicable
  • place of origin labelling, if required (see below)
  • the grade immediately followed by the colour class (except for comb honey)
  • the net weight of the honey, in grams or kilograms

Containers of honey with a capacity of 150 grams or less do not require a grade, colour class, or net weight on the label. All other labelling requirements apply.

Farm Gate Honey

There are fewer label requirements for farm gate honey. Farm gate honey must be labelled with:

  • the name and full address of the producer, and
  • the words "honey/miel" or "comb honey/miel en rayon" as appropriate.

Containers for farm gate honey are not required to adhere to the container requirements outlined above.

Labels on farm gate honey may include additional information such as the net weight or a grade and colour class. Any additional information included on the label must be correct.

Honey Sold From Bulk Containers

The above label requirements do not apply to containers that are filled by the consumer from a bulk dispenser.

If honey is sold from a bulk dispenser and poured into consumer containers at the time of purchase, then the label on the bulk dispenser does not require a net weight. All other label requirements apply.

If labels on previously used bulk honey containers do not meet the requirements of the regulation, then the previous labels or information on the labels must be completely removed and replaced with new labels that comply with the regulation.

Place of Origin Labelling Requirements

Honey that is produced and packaged within Ontario does not require a place of origin on the label; however, the packer may optionally choose to include this information (i.e. "Product of Ontario").

If all or part of the honey was produced outside Ontario and repackaged within Ontario, then this must be indicated on the label using the words "Product of/Produit de":

  • Honey produced outside Ontario must include the name of the country or the Canadian province where it was produced (e.g., "Product of USA", "Product of Manitoba", or "Product of Canada").
  • Honey that is a blend of Ontario honey and honey produced outside Ontario must include the name of all countries or Canadian provinces where the honey was produced (e.g., "Product of Ontario and Manitoba", "Product of Canada and USA" or "Product of Canada").

Additional Information on Honey Labels

If the label includes a statement indicating that the honey is pasteurized, creamed or liquid, then the honey must meet the requirements for these statements as described in Table 2 of O. Reg. 119/11.

The ministry recommends that honey production lot codes be included on the label. A production lot is the grouping of product produced, processed or packaged under similar circumstances within a given timeframe. A lot code is the specific identifier assigned to all products in a production lot and can be any unique combination of letters and/or numbers. Records must be maintained for each lot code.

Misrepresentation

Under Section 25 of O. Reg. 119/11, honey labels, containers or advertisements must not contain any false or misleading information.

Honey Substitutes

When other ingredients, such as cinnamon or berry extracts are added to honey, the product no longer meets the definition of honey and is instead considered a honey substitute. A honey substitute is defined as any product that resembles honey and is prepared for the same uses as honey and may include honey as an ingredient but not the sole ingredient.

There are labelling and container restrictions with regards to honey substitutes. These are described in Section 26 of O. Reg. 119/11. Specifically, the producer/packer of honey substitutes may not:

  • use words, pictures or designs on any label, container or advertisement; or use a container of a shape that would likely lead a person to mistake the honey substitute for pure honey
  • use the word "honey" on any container of substitute that does not contain any honey

Additional Resources

OMAFRA staff are available to review honey labels and provide advice and guidance to help honey producers bring their products into compliance with O. Reg. 119/11. Please contact the Food Safety Inspection Delivery Branch at fpo.omafra@ontario.ca or call 1-877-424-1300 for more information.

Please see OMAFRA's Honey Labelling Brochure entitled Label Requirements for Honey in Ontario for visual examples of a complete honey label. For information about the ministry's Honey Monitoring Program, please refer to the information page entitled OMAFRA's Honey Monitoring Program.

Provincial (Ontario)

Ontario Regulation 119/11 can be found at: ontario.ca/laws/regulation/110119

The Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 can be found at: ontario.ca/laws/statute/01f20

Federal (Canada)

Requirements under O. Reg. 119/11 are in addition to federal requirements under the Food and Drugs Act or the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations. For example, the Food and Drugs Act provides requirements for nutrition labelling on consumer containers. Please refer to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency at www.inspection.gc.ca for more information about federal requirements.


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: Nicole Robb, Regulatory and Standards Coordinator, OMAFRA
Creation Date: 11 April 2019
Last Reviewed: 11 April 2019