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Lighting in an establishment


What is lighting?

Lighting applies to the type and source of lighting used to illuminate an area. It can serve a general purpose or be task specific and come from an artificial source like a hanging light fixture or natural source like daylight from a window.

Lighting is an important feature in the overall design and construction of establishments. Adequate and appropriate lighting provides visual accuracy for the:

  • food and activities conducted by the operator
  • inspection activities such as grading carried out by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency

The form of lighting and its intensity can present a risk of contamination to a food. For example:

  • broken glass can fall into a food from suspended light fixtures
  • insufficient or improper lighting can compromise the maintenance of sanitary conditions and the effectiveness of your control measures


The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) created this document as guidance to help food businesses comply with the requirements set out in the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations.

It's your choice

You may use other guidance developed by provincial governments, industry associations, international partners or academic bodies as long as they can achieve the outcomes identified in the regulations. Always ensure that the guidance you choose is relevant for your particular business, product or products, and market requirements.

What is included

This document outlines:

  • general considerations
  • light intensities and colour
  • light intensity levels needed for certain activities
  • sources of light
  • safety of light sources

Refer to the Tell me more! section for additional sources of information that may help you ensure that the lighting to conduct your activities.

What is not included

While this document provides generic information about lighting, it is not exhaustive – Lighting needs and preventive measures will depend on the size and complexity of the food business and be unique for each business.

Roles and responsibilities

Food businesses are responsible for complying with the law. They demonstrate compliance by ensuring that the commodities and processes for which they are responsible meet regulatory requirements. If a written preventive control plan (PCP) is required, the food business develops a PCP with supporting documents, monitors and maintains evidence of its implementation, and verifies that all control measures are effective.

The CFIA verifies the compliance of a food business by conducting activities that include inspection, and surveillance. When non-compliance is identified, the CFIA takes appropriate compliance and enforcement actions.


The intensity, colour and direction of lighting used to illuminate each area should:

  • enable personnel to conduct properly their tasks such as:
    • cleaning and sanitizing the establishment and equipment
    • monitoring and verification of control measures
    • operating equipment and instruments such as reading thermometers
  • facilitate the maintenance of clean and sanitary conditions
  • be sufficient to detect hazards, deviations and defects in a food
  • provide the visual accuracy needed to grade or inspect a food and processes such as inspecting poultry carcasses for fecal contamination

Lighting intensities and colour

The amount of light that is considered adequate depends on the tasks you are performing in that area.

For example, the following light intensity levels are commonly acceptable for most foods:Footnote 1

  • 1000 lux (92.9 foot candles) for inspecting containers such as can seams
  • 540 lux (50.2 foot candles) in inspection areas such as the egg grading station
  • 220 lux (20.4 foot candles) in work areas such as processing and packaging areas
  • 110 lux (10.2 foot candles) in other areas such as storage areas, warehouses

It is important that lighting does not alter the colour of a food in areas where colour-sensitive tasks are being performed. For example, light sources with high emission in the blue spectrum may cause a pork loin chop to appear less red, and light sources with high emission in the red spectrum may cause the same meat to appear redder.

Light sources are characterized by their colour rendering properties.

  • The Colour Rendering Index or CRI is the quantitative measure of the ability of an artificial light source to reveal the true colours of an object
  • The higher the CRI value, the closer an object appears to its true colours as viewed under natural or ideal lighting

CRI is measured between 0 and 100; a CRI of 100 indicates the colours will appear with high fidelity (true).

  • In general food processing areas, a CRI of 70 is recommended
  • In inspection areas, a CRI of at least 85 is recommended

Light intensity levels for certain activities

In addition to the lighting intensity levels recommended above, there are light intensity levels recognized as achieving compliance for the following activities:

  • CFIA inspection stations in meat slaughter facilities: a minimum of 540 lux measured at the lowest inspection point (including ante-mortem) and operator inspection sites (e.g., head preparation, check trim station, boneless meat inspection site, return and imported meat inspection sites)
  • Inspection stations for post-mortem exam of poultry: a minimum of 2000 lux (185.8 foot candles) shadow-free lighting that has a minimum CRI of 85 measured at the carcass abdominal cavity level
  • For livestock carcasses presented for grading:
    • a minimum of 1000 lux (92.9 foot candles), measured at the grading stand level
    • a minimum of 200 lux (19 foot candles) in the cooler, measured at the loin level

Sources of light

Any source of light, including natural sunlight, is acceptable if the following conditions are met.

  • It provides appropriate lighting as described in the previous sections
  • The appearance of the natural colour of the food is not altered
  • It does not negatively affect the food
  • The effectiveness of chemical sanitizers is unaffected
    • Certain chemical sanitizers deteriorate during storage and exposure to light (such as chlorine dioxide and sodium hypochlorite). This renders them ineffective against microorganisms

Safety of light source

In addition to providing appropriate lighting, the source of light cannot present a risk of contamination to the food.

For example

  • Light bulbs should be shielded, coated or otherwise shatter-resistant in case they break. Broken bulbs, glass and other materials are potential hazards
  • Fixtures should be installed in a way that can be cleaned to prevent the accumulation of dust and debris. Dust and debris may fall from the fixtures and contaminate the food

There are different types of fixtures used in the food production facility, such as

  • mounted flush to the canopy
  • side shielded under the canopy
  • full cutoff
  • fully shielded wall mount

Whatever types of fixtures are used, they should

  • shield the light source
  • minimize glare, and
  • allow light to pass through

Most importantly, they should not

  • leak, corrode, cause fires or other electrical problems, or
  • present a risk of contaminating food

Quick tips

  • Light-coloured ceilings and walls allow cleanliness to be more easily evaluated and they increase the overall lighting levels in the facility
  • Lighting systems deteriorate without regular maintenance. The output of the lamp decreases as the length of time it has been in operation increases. Different lamp types deteriorate at different rates

Tell me more! Further reading

The following references contain information that helps explain food safety controls, demonstrates how to develop them, and provides examples. The CFIA is not responsible for the content of documents that are created by other government agencies or international sources.

CFIA references

Other references