Importing food under the new Safe Food for Canadians Regulations

November 8, 2018 - Tags: Regulations

This guest blog post is provided by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), as part of a series about the new Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR). The CFIA is dedicated to safeguarding food, animals and plants, which enhances the health and well-being of Canada's people, environment and economy.

Every day, thousands of metric tons of food and beverages arrive in Canada by sea, land and air. Thanks to food importers, Canadians enjoy a variety of foods year round.

The volume of fresh fruits and vegetables and processed foods (such as snacks, cereals and bakery products) being imported into Canada has approximately doubled, from $11.7 billion in 2006 to $22.8 billion in 2015.

The new Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) will require that imported food be prepared with the same level of food safety controls as food prepared in Canada. As a result, food importers can keep Canadians' trust that food imported into Canada is safe to eat.

The new consolidated regulations will come into force on January 15, 2019. Some requirements will have to be met immediately upon coming into force, while other requirements will be phased in over a period of 12-30 months based on food commodity, type of activity and business size.

Changes for food importers

The new consolidated regulations are built on three major elements based on prevention-focused international standards: licensing, preventive controls and traceability.

Importers will have to meet certain conditions in order to obtain a licence to import food into Canada. They will need to have preventive controls, and in most cases, a written preventive control plan. They will also be required to keep traceability records that track from whom they bought food and to whom they sold it.

In addition, importers are required to maintain procedures for handling and investigating complaints and recalls for the food they import. This requirement also applies to food produced in Canada, whether for export markets or domestic markets across provincial or territorial borders.

The new requirements also apply to food that is imported for the purpose of exporting at a later date.

Find out how the new requirements apply to your business by visiting CFIA's interactive tools and timelines.

Before importing food, importers should:

  • Understand the food safety risks associated with the food they want to import and ensure there are control measures in place for them
  • Understand the supply chain by knowing who is manufacturing, preparing, storing, packaging and labelling the food before it comes to Canada
  • Be able to demonstrate that the food is manufactured, prepared, stored, packaged and labelled in the foreign country under conditions that provide at least the same level of protection as provided by the SFCR

Food businesses can enrol now in My CFIA to apply for a licence, once licence applications are available.

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