Regulatory requirements for honey in Ontario
Learn about requirements for honey under Ontario Regulation 119/11, including food safety, premises, label, container, grading, misrepresentation and honey substitutes.
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Honey, including comb honey, is the food derived from the nectar of blossoms or from secretions of or on the living parts of plants by the work of honey bees.
Ontario Regulation 119/11 - Produce, Honey and Maple Products (referred to as O. Reg. 119/11), under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001, sets out legal requirements for:
You must comply with this regulation if both apply to you:
- you pack, transport or sell honey in Ontario
- you do not hold a federal license from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for that activity
For full details, refer directly to the regulation.
Food safety requirements
- pack, transport or offer contaminated honey for sale
- blend contaminated honey with honey that is not contaminated
Contaminated means that the honey:
- contains or has been exposed to a hazard
- contains a substance that is not permitted by the federal government
- exceeds the permissible levels prescribed by the federal government
Premises, facility, utensil and equipment requirements
If you operate a premises where honey is produced or packed, you must ensure that the following items are used in honey production and/or packaging are kept clean and sanitary:
Grade and colour classification requirements
If you pack, sell or transport honey that is offered or intended for sale to consumers or retail outlets, you must grade and colour classify 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 honey packer, producer, or a person acting on their behalf
- must occur before the honey is transported or sold to the consumer
If you are re-packing honey, then as the re-packer, you 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
- honey that is produced in the producer’s own apiary and sold directly to a consumer from the producer’s residence (known as “farm gate” honey)
Honey grade is determined by several factors, including:
- moisture content
- percent water (moisture)
- insoluble solids
- the presence of foreign materials
A complete list of requirements for each grade is found in Table 2 of O. Reg. 119/11 . As per this table, honey must be labelled as either:
- Ontario No. 1
- Ontario No. 2
- Ontario No. 3
Honey must be classified for colour while in liquid form, and in accordance with Table 3 of O. Reg. 119/11.. The four honey colour classes are:
Section 17 of O. Reg. 119/11 describes container requirements for honey.
A consumer container is any container of honey that has a capacity of five kilograms or less. All consumer containers of honey must be:
- sound (not broken, damaged or leaking)
- securely closed
Honey in consumer containers must only be sold in the following container sizes:
- Any net weight up to and including 375 grams
- 500 grams
- 750 grams
- 1 kilogram
- 1.5 kilograms
- 2 kilograms
- 3 kilograms
- 5 kilograms
These container size requirements do not apply to comb honey.
Container requirements do not apply to farm gate honey.
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.
Section 21 of O. Reg. 119/11 describes the label requirements for honey. Label requirements depend on several factors, including the:
- size of the retail container
- type of honey (comb honey or non-comb honey)
- retail location (retail or farm gate)
“Retail” honey is honey that is sold from any location other than the producer’s place of residence.
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
- the grade immediately followed by the colour class. For example, “Ontario No. 1 White” is written according to this format. This requirement does not apply to 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
- the words “honey/miel” or “comb honey/miel en rayon” as appropriate
Labels on farm gate honey may voluntarily include additional information such as the net weight or a grade and colour class. Any additional information included on the label must be correct.
Name and address requirements
All labels must include a complete address that has enough information to identify the exact physical location of the person or business responsible for the honey. This includes:
- farm name, company name or person’s full name
- street address
- town or city
- postal code
Honey sold from bulk containers
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 to the bulk container.
If labels on previously used bulk honey containers do not meet the requirements of the regulation, then you must ensure the previous labels or information on the labels is 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. You may optionally choose to include this information (for example, you may include “Product of Ontario” on your label).
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 (for example, “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 (for example, “Product of Ontario and Manitoba”, “Product of Canada and USA” or “Product of Canada”).
Pasteurized, creamed or liquid
If your label indicates 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.
Production lot codes
Production lot codes are recommended on the honey label or container. A production lot is the grouping of honey that is 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.
Consult your local health unit for any additional requirements that may apply under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
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.
Consult the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for more information about federal requirements or for information about importing and exporting food products.
Honey labels, containers or advertisements must not contain any false or misleading information.
If you add other ingredients, such as cinnamon or berry extracts to the 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.
O. Reg. 119/11 includes labelling and container restrictions for honey substitutes. These are described in Section 26 of O. Reg. 119/11. Specifically, the producer/packer of honey substitutes may not:
- use any 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
Honey substitutes do not meet the definition of honey and must not include a grade or colour class on the label. Contact the CFIA and your Local Public Health Unit for requirements for honey substitutes.
OMAFRA staff are available to review your honey labels and provide advice and guidance to help meet requirements under O. Reg. 119/11.