New Regulations Affecting Canadian Food Importers

The Government of Canada has introduced the Safe Food For Canadians Act (SFCA) to modernize, simplify and strengthen rules for food commodities imported into Canada.

The act will provide increased export opportunities for Canadian producers. If your business is a Canadian food importer, exports food to another country, or sells food across provinces, you may be subject to the proposed requirements.

How To Import Food Products Into Canada

Major Changes That Will Affect Importers Of Canadian Food

After reviewing the act, here are the areas that will most affect you, the importer.

Licensing Requirements

Currently a few industries (dairy, meat and fish) require a license under the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulations. Under the new regulations, however, licenses may become mandatory for certain food types imported, exported, or traded inter-provincially. Under the proposed regulations, most food businesses would require a license to:

  • Import food
  • Manufacture, process, treat, preserve, grade, package, or label food to be exported or sold across provinces
  • Export food that requires an export certificate, even if not preparing the food
  • Slaughter food animals where the meat product is to be exported or to sold across provinces
  • Store and handle a meat product in its imported condition for inspection by the CFIA.
Safe Foods For Canadians Regulations To Require License For Businesses

Preventative Control Plan

It is proposed that every company who deals with food has a preventative control plan in place which documents all aspects of the operation including equipment, food preparation, hygiene, transportation and storage. The plan will seek to identify all hazards and critical control points as well as procedures related to monitoring, corrective action, verification, and record keeping.

Recall Traceability Plan

To insure efficient response to food safety incidents, companies will be required to have (but not limited to) a recall traceability plan that is accessible in Canada, data that can be provided to the CFIA electronically, and you must be able to trace the food forward and backward, with records kept.

Non-Resident Importers

Of particular concern is the requirement for a license, which many Non-Resident Importers may not have. This has been addressed as a stakeholder concern and CFIA's response is included in the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement below:

"Many importers currently operate from outside of Canada. A requirement to have a Canadian fixed place of business could result in significant costs associated with setting up an office in Canada."

CFIA response:

"The proposed Regulations would allow for importers who do not have a fixed place of business in Canada to hold a license if they have a fixed place of business in a foreign state that has a food safety system that provides at least the same level of protection to that of Canada. Canada has such an arrangement with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which was signed in 2016."

The Foreign Food Safety Systems Recognition (FFSSR) Arrangement, is the arrangement referred to in the above statement from CFIA. It will set out principles and areas of cooperation between the FDA and Canadian participants relating to food traded between the two countries, and allow Canada to recognize all or part of a foreign food safety control system.

How To Become A Non-Resident Importer

Current Timeline

The CFIA is proposing a phased approach for the coming into force of the proposed Regulations that reflects the different levels of industry readiness and the concerns of small businesses. The table below provides an overview of the phased implementation. Please note that changes will take effect immediately upon the Act coming into full force.

Overview of phased implementation timelines

This table presents an overview of the phased implementation timelines.

CFIA recently launched a 90-day consultation on the proposed Safe Food for Canadians Regulations to better protect the health of Canadians. This consultation allows for anyone affected by the Safe Foods for Canadians act to have their say before legislation is put in place.

The Safe Foods For Canadian Regulations have been published in Canada Gazette Part II on June 13th, 2018. There will be a period of time to review the final regulations and get ready to meet the new requirements before they come into force.

If you have further questions regarding this act and how it may affect your business, we have compiled a list of helpful links below.

Helpful Links

To read the regulation in full, visit this website.

For an overview on the Safe Food for Canadians Act and a summary of what business need to know please watch this video.

Use the CFIA's interactive tools to find out if you would need a license, a written Preventive Control Plan or what your traceability requirements would be.

To learn more and have your say before the consultation closes on April 21, 2017, visit the CFIA Safe Foods for Canadians webpage.

To determine if your business will require a license, use this interactive tool.

You may wish to review the Foreign Food Safety Systems Recognition (FFSSR) Arrangement questions and answers.

Visit the Canadian Gazette article on this act.

Trade Advisor Get Started

Updated June 14, 2018.

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About Author
Gloria Terhaar
CCS, CTCS, CBSA Professional Designate

Gloria Terhaar has over 17 years of Canadian customs brokerage experience. 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 Canadain 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.