Canada’s New Food Safety Regulations

Written by John Moccia, Compliance Manager, Regulatory Affairs Canada

Are you an exporter or an importer of food products? Are you aware of proposed regulatory changes being recommended by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) on market access of these goods?

April 21, 2017, marked the close of a 90-day public consultation of the proposed Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR). The proposed SFCR introduces modern food safety requirements for businesses that import food, or prepare food to be exported or sold across provinces. These regulations will have a direct impact throughout the food supply chain, and will affect the way many manufacturers and importers conduct business in Canada.

The key elements of the proposed regulations are based on international food safety best practices – for example, having preventative control plans (PCP) and traceability systems in place. In addition, under the proposed regulations, previously non-federally registered food sectors will be subject to the licensing regime and CFIA oversight. The non-federally registered sector encompasses a wide range of products, including infant foods, spices, bakery products, fats and oils, snack foods, and cereal products.

Key Food Safety Elements
The proposed Regulations would establish three key food safety elements:

1. Licenses:
Under the proposed Regulations, licenses will be required for food importers, for persons (e.g. food businesses) preparing food for export or for interprovincial trade, with some exceptions, and for persons slaughtering food animals from which meat products for export or interprovincial trade may be derived. License applications will require certain information from the applicant regarding their identity (e.g. business name) and business activities, which will inform risk-based oversight. The proposed licence will be valid for a period of two years for a fee of approximately $250, and may be suspended or cancelled in cases of non-compliance. Regulated parties will be able to apply for one or multiple licenses.

2. Traceability:
The proposed Regulations will apply the international standard for traceability established by Codex to persons importing, exporting and interprovincially trading food, as well as to other persons holding a licence issued under the SFCA, and to growers and harvesters of fresh fruits or vegetables that are to be exported or traded interprovincially. Electronic or paper records will need to be prepared and kept in order to track food forward to the immediate customer (e.g. a retailer or another food business) and backwards to the immediate supplier (i.e. one step forward, one step back along the supply chain). Retailers will not be required to trace forward their sales to consumers.

The proposed Regulations will require that traceability information be provided, upon the Minister’s request, within 24 hours, or some shorter period, if the information is considered necessary to identify or respond to a risk of injury to human health, or some longer period if the information is not considered necessary for a recall that is or may be ordered. The information will need to be provided in French or in English and, where electronic, in a format that can be imported and manipulated by standard commercial software. The information will need to be accessible in Canada.

3. Preventive controls and preventive control plan (PCP):
The proposed Regulations will require food subject to the Regulations and activities (e.g. importing, preparing meat products for export or interprovincial trade) to meet food safety requirements and that those activities be conducted in a manner that is consistent with internationally recognized agricultural and manufacturing practices (i.e. GAPs, GMPs and HACCP). The proposed Regulations will address the following key preventive control elements:

  • Sanitation, pest control, and non-food agents;
  • Conveyances and equipment;
  • Conditions respecting establishments;
  • Unloading, loading and storing;
  • Competency (i.e. for staff);
  • Hygiene;
  • Communicable diseases and lesions; and
  • Investigation and notification, complaints and recall.

In addition to the three key food safety elements, certain commodity-specific requirements for food safety will remain in place where appropriate. For example, the current regulations require imported meat products to be sourced from a country with an inspection system that is approved by the Minister under the MIA. This requirement will be maintained in the proposed Regulations.

Safe Food for Canadians Regulations

Safe Food for Canadians Act – Questions and Answers