Canada Food Import Guide | How To Import Food Into Canada

Canada Food Import Guide | How To Import Food Into Canada

Food products are some of the most misunderstood imports that a Customs Broker handles. Depending on the commodity it can be regulated by one or more Government Acts and agencies and must meet all requirements of each to be imported as a Canadian Food Product. Food products are a definite case of just because you can buy it outside of Canada, doesn't mean you can import it.

Regulations For Specific Food Products

Being aware of the varied rules and regulations which apply to these food products will save you both time and money. Therefore we have created some basic guidelines for certain types of food imports.

Fresh Fruits And Vegetables

Fresh fruits and vegetables are regulated under various plant protection directives of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). These directives promote Canadian food safety as well as protect the consumer, Canadian agricultural producers and the environment from invasive pests. Importation, with few exceptions, requires a Dispute Resolution Corporation membership or a CFIA produce License and a Confirmation of Sale. Depending on the commodity and where it originates it may also require other certifications, phytosanitary certificates or permits.

How To Import Produce Into Canada

Meat And Products Containing Meat

Meat for consumption, such as beef, chicken, pork and lamb and products that contain meat such as soups, broths, and other processed foods, whether fresh, frozen or processed, are regulated under the Meat Inspection Act. This act ensures safe handling practices, traceability, and liability in case of contaminated products. These products must enter Canada in full compliance with the Meat Inspection Act regulations by way of meat inspection certificates issued by the exporting country or, in the case of products containing less than 2% meat content, a Importers attestation letter and calculation as well as commercial invoices.

Some imports will also be flagged for inspected by the CFIA after import at an approved cold storage facility. The quantity of Chicken, Turkey, Beef and Veal imported is also regulated by the Export and Import Controls Division of Global Affairs Canada under Tariff rate quotas. Quota, if held by an Importer, allows a predetermined quantity to imported into Canada at a reduced duty rate. If you do not have quota then the duty rate on these items is prohibitively high; over 200% in most cases.

How To Import Meat Into Canada

Dairy Products

The importation of dairy products requires a commercial invoice. If you wish to import cheese, you will also need a Safe Foods for Canadian License. Some Dairy Products will also require a Zoosanitary certificate issued by the country of export in order to confirm treatment and that the product meets import requirements.

The Import of whole dairy products such as Milk, Cheese, Margarine, Yogurt and Ice Cream is also regulated by the Export and Import Controls Division of Global Affairs Canada under Tariff rate quotas. Margarine quota is issued on a first come first serve basis, so there is no need to apply for an allocation. However, you must apply for an allocation of the quota for Milk, Cheese, Yogurt, and Ice Cream products. This quota, in most cases, is issued yearly to a predetermined list of historical importers. Again, If you do not have a quota, then the duty rate on these items is prohibitively high.

How To Import Dairy Into Canada

Fish And Seafood Products

Fish, shellfish, and amphibious mammals are all regulated by the Fish Inspection Act and require a fisheries license to import as well as commercial invoices. Susceptible species of aquatic animals are regulated under the National Aquatic Animal Health Program which addresses aquatic animal diseases and is in place to prevent the spread of such illnesses. Aquatic animals regulated under this program in many cases require an import permit issued by the CFIA and possibly a Zoosanitary Export Certificate issued by the exporting country, in addition to a fisheries license.

All aquatic animals and portions thereof require their taxonomic species number, and the species name is listed on the invoice. To import food products in which fish or fish products are an ingredient of in any quantity you must hold a fisheries license.

Safe Food For Canadians Act

The Safe Food for Canadians Act is legislation that consolidates the authorities of 13 current regulations into one Act and will regulate food products that currently are not required to be registered under current federal regulations. It modernizes and strengthens food commodity legislation to better protect consumers. Under proposed regulations, those who import, prepare food for export or for inter-provincial trade or export of a food product, would be required to hold a license, provide traceability, and have preventive controls and preventive control plan (PCP).The proposed Safe Food for Canadians Regulations, under the authority of the Safe Food for Canadian Act, were published in Part 1 of the Canada Gazette on January 21, 2017.

Learn More About The CFIA And Safe Foods For Canadian's Act In Our Seminar

What Requirements Must Be Met To Import Food Products?

Your customs broker can help you, but there are a few details that should be ascertained before you contact your customs broker to confirm import requirements. Things you should know are:

  • What is the food product?
  •  Where is the item grown or manufactured?
  •  Where is it destined to in Canada?
  •  If processed, what is the ingredient list (request a copy of the label or list)?
  •  What is the end use?
  •  How are the items packaged?
  •  Is the exporter familiar with export requirements? This is especially important for produce, meat, fish and products containing meat or fish.

Once you have this information, your customs broker can assist you in understanding the import requirements and equip you with the knowledge to avoid costly and time-consuming border delays.

If you would like to have a broker review your requirements and quote on the service to manage your Canadian food imports please click on the image below.

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About the Author
Gloria Terhaar
CCS (CA/US), CTCS, CBSA Prof. Designate

Gloria Terhaar began her career in Canadian customs brokerage 2007. She currently works in our Canadian division as a Trade Compliance Supervisor and Regulatory Compliance Specialist. Gloria has extensive experience in all aspects of documentation and regulatory requirements as they relate to importing products into Canada. Gloria is often called upon to train industry with some recent talks for MNP, the Surrey Board of Trade, TFO Canada and the BC Produce Marketing Association. In 2018, Gloria also participated in the Canadian Produce Marketing Association and the Canadian Horticultural Council advocacy event "Fall Harvest" in Ottawa where she participated in advocacy efforts for the Canadian produce industry.

While we strive for accuracy in all our communications, as the Importer of Record it is incumbent upon your company to ensure that you are aware of the requirements under the new regulations so that you maintain compliance as always.