Exporting food: applying for the Certificate of Free Sale
Requirements for the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations
Although the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) came into force on January 15, 2019, certain requirements may apply in 2020 and 2021 based on food commodity, type of activity and business size. For more information, refer to the SFCR timelines.
- Effective January 15, 2019, the Manufacturer's Declaration Form (CFIA/ACIA 5280) is not available. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will instead issue the Certificate of Free Sale (CFIA/ACIA 5786) when a certificate or commercial document is required for export. This certificate will only be issued to food companies licensed under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR). Please visit My CFIA page to apply for a license.
- The CFIA has prepared some questions and answers to explain the discontinuation of the Manufacturer's Declaration Form (CFIA/ACIA 5280) and the transition to the Certificate of Free Sale (CFIA/ACIA 5786) under the SFCR.
On this page
- Eligibility requirements for the Certificate of Free Sale
- Applying for the Certificate of Free Sale
- CFIA verification
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) form Certificate of Free Sale (CFIA/ACIA 5786) is available for food products manufactured by licensed parties under the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR). The CFIA will issue this certificate when necessary to meet the importing country requirements.
The Certificate of Free Sale does not replace product or commodity specific certificates that have been negotiated with foreign countries. It also does not replace or supersede additional import requirements that may be established by the importing country.
Note: if your sole licensed activity is to export the food, you can only request the Certificate of Free Sale for food products manufactured in Canada by a licensed party under the SFCA and SFCR.
Eligibility requirements for the Certificate of Free Sale
Only food and food ingredients manufactured in Canada by a licensed manufacturer are eligible. These products must be in Canada and available for inspection when certificates are requested.
Foods that have additional export requirements and negotiated certificates should use the appropriate certificate and not the Certificate of Free Sale.
Feed and other products certified under plant health or animal health regulations are not eligible for the Certificate of Free Sale.
Foods exempted from SFCR but which are considered food in the foreign country and that require certification must meet all applicable SFCR requirements for food in order to receive the Certificate of Free Sale.
It is the exporter's responsibility to know what importing country requirements apply to the food products for export and what documents are needed. The CFIA has information on importing country requirements that have been negotiated which can be found in the Export requirements library.
The exporter must have a valid Safe Food for Canadians (SFC) licence to manufacture and/or export and meet the SFCR requirements of having a written preventive control plan (PCP) and traceability controls in place.
The manufacturer, authorized agent of the manufacturer and/or exporter, must declare that:
- they hold a valid licence to export food under the SFCR
- the food was produced for export by a licensed manufacturer in good regulatory standing with a written food safety control plan and traceability system in place
- the food is safe for human consumption, meaning that the food was produced under sanitary conditions, is edible, free from contamination, and is not labelled in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive
- the importing country will accept the Certificate of Free Sale (CFIA/ACIA 5786) as the appropriate trade facilitation document
- they are willing to accept the commercial risk that the product may be refused entry by the importing country for not meeting a requirement to import; and
- the product to be exported is still in Canada at the time of this application
The manufacturer will be subject to the CFIA's risk based inspection program.
Applying for the Certificate of Free Sale
The information required on the application form is self-explanatory, with the exception of 1 field: consignor. The consignor is typically the party that is the owner/legal party responsible for the shipment.
If the applicant is an exporter (that is to say, not the manufacturer), then they are the consignor. In this case, the exporter needs to be licensed and must also identify the licensed manufacturer of the product being exported.
If the applicant is the licensed (or registered) manufacturer/processor, then they may put themselves (or another party, if relevant) as the consignor. If the manufacturer identifies another party as the consignor and that party is not licensed, writing "N/A" in the consignor licence field is acceptable as the manufacturer is licensed.
The form cannot be altered in any fashion and may not include additional claims or statements regarding the method of production or the quality or safety of the product.
When a Certificate of Free Sale is being requested for the purpose of pre-authorization (that is to say, to obtain an import permit or product registration) in a foreign country, and is not accompanying a shipment, the lot code, size and total weight of the shipment is not required to be submitted in the application and these fields can be marked "N/A" for not applicable. This type of Certificate of Free Sale must be requested through the offline process only (see Existing certificate request channels (offline)).
Once the Certificate of Free Sale is issued, there is no expiration date, but the CFIA recommends that it is used for shipments leaving Canada within 30 days. The importing country may choose not to accept the certificate if it is not used within a reasonable period of time.
A fee for export certificates may apply based on the interim SFCR fees notice (see CFIA - Proposed changes to the Fees Notice).
Online through My CFIA
Applying for a Certificate of Free Sale via My CFIA is available to licensed food businesses under the SFCR for the following types of commodities at this time:
- manufactured foods
- processed fruits and vegetables
- maple products
- honey products
Step-by-step instructions for requesting a Certificate of Free Sale can be found on the My CFIA User Guidance page.
It is important to select the correct food commodity and sub-commodity so that your certificate accurately reflects your business. To help you locate your product type within My CFIA, here is a link to a searchable list: Commodity table: categorized listing of food products for export.
Please note that in the event of a CFIA electronic system outage, exporters of manufactured foods may follow existing certificate request channels (offline) as detailed below.
The original Certificate of Free Sale must be used as the official export document and must accompany the shipment. A certified copy can be forwarded as a duplicate to the importer, to be used for preclearance purposes and/or kept on file.
To print the certificate, a colour printer is required in order for the red CFIA electronic stamp and electronic signature to appear clearly. The certificate is to be printed on standard white letter-sized (8.5 × 11) paper. No other colours or sizes will be accepted internationally.
If any problems printing are experienced, call 1-800-442-CFIA (2342) for assistance.
Existing certificate request channels (offline)
For dairy products, eggs, fish and seafood, and meat and poultry, the application for a Certificate of Free Sale must be made through existing certificate request processes through local CFIA offices.
Exporters are requested to complete the Application for a Certificate of Free Sale (CFIA/ACIA 5786) and send it to their contact at the local CFIA office for consideration.
The CFIA will continue to transition other commodity sectors to request certificates online through the My CFIA channel in the future as part of the Digital Service Delivery Platform (DSDP) certification process. This is to ensure that the registration and export requirements can be validated by the CFIA and ensure that country/commodity requirements are maintained for trade purposes.
All replacement certificates will be issued offline through CFIA inspection offices as per the current process. There are limited circumstances when the CFIA will replace certificates once the product has left Canada. Applicants need to identify the certificate they wish to replace.
Please view Replacement certificates for more information.
The CFIA will verify that export conditions are met in accordance with its risk based inspection activities in accordance to the operational procedure on issuing a Certificate of Free Sale.
The CFIA will apply compliance and enforcement actions, which could include licence suspension and/or the application of penalties in accordance with the SFCR, if a person requested the Certificate of Free Sale (CFIA/ACIA 5786) for a product that did not meet these conditions.
The CFIA will issue the certificate to licensed parties who are in good standing with the CFIA. A licensed manufacturer is considered to be in good standing with the CFIA until such time that a licence is suspended or cancelled or if there are food safety concerns that would prevent the CFIA from allowing products to be distributed.
The CFIA will issue the certificate; however, the exporter assumes the commercial risk.
The CFIA will not issue the certificate as a commercial document for the purpose of meeting the needs of a private party.
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