Food export certification
On this page
- Types of export certificates
- Certification requirements
- Applying for certificates online (e-Cert)
- Paper-based certification
- Applying for replacement certificates
An export certificate is a type of official assurance, providing an importing country with confirmation from the Canadian government – in this case, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) – that your product or commodity meets certain standards and requirements.
Not all countries or all products require them.
The CFIA issues export certificates only for products still in Canada. Products no longer in Canada are not eligible for certification because the CFIA is unable to attest to the compliance of the food to any requirements.
If required, the export certificate accompanies a consignment to its destination country, confirming the consignment's compliance with specific standards and requirements. An approved export certificate is provided to the appropriate border agency of the destination country – in either electronic or paper form – to help clear your product into that country.
Certification is almost exclusively done for products exported for commercial purposes. However, certain countries require an export certificate for product destined for personal consumption, for example, fish caught while sport fishing in Canada. For more information on this please see the Food-specific requirements.
Types of export certificates
Health or sanitary certificates (negotiated)
Health or sanitary certificates are government to government certificates that include information about the product, its health status and the consignor.
The information on an export certificate varies, depending on the product or commodity and the destination country, but it may include:
- the country of origin of the product and its ingredients;
- treatment or other processes the product has undergone, prior to export;
- the microbiological status of the product; and/or,
- the product's health status – for example, whether or not a certain animal or plant disease is present in Canada.
Inspection certificates (Canadian)
Inspection certificates are developed by Canada to attest that the product complies with Canadian standards, for example: certificates of origin and hygiene, product grading certificates, standard meat product certificates, etc. Consignments for countries or products with no known requirements may be issued inspection certificates, but these consignments are at commercial risk. The importer in the destination country can tell you if an inspection certificate is required.
Commercial risk means acceptance by the exporter that the CFIA certificate is given in good faith based on the exporter's written assurances that all due enquiries have been made and that there is no known impediment to entry of the product into the country concerned. These products must meet all Canadian requirements.
Certificates of free sale
A certificate of free sale attests that, in accordance with the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR), the products are required to:
- originate from a manufacturer licensed to produce food for sale in Canada and/or for export
- have been produced by a manufacturer in good regulatory standing with a food safety control plan and traceability system in place
- and, be safe for human consumption
The importer in the destination country is able to tell you if a certificate of free sale is required.
The radiation certificate (Certificate of Inspection Radiation Content) is a government to government certificate attesting to the safe level of radiation in the exported food.
As of May 1, 2019 the CFIA will be the only authority in Canada to issue radiation certificates for food exports. The CFIA will issue radiation certificates when required by the importing country.
The Certificate of Inspection Radiation Content will also attest that food commodities produced in Canada:
- show levels of radiation at or near normal background levels which are far below those considered harmful by national and international standards
- may be sold freely without restriction in Canada and are considered to meet standards for levels of radiation of any country importing Canadian products
It is the responsibility of the Canadian exporter to find out from the destination country if a radiation certificate is required.
You are responsible to identify and implement the Canadian regulatory requirements and the foreign country import requirements that apply to your product. The CFIA supports industry by publishing known and negotiated requirements in the Export requirements library.
Reporting export requirements to CFIA
If you become aware of new or changed export requirements for any countries, you are encouraged to inform your local inspection office (see Area and Regional Offices) so that the CFIA can verify the requirements and determine if the Canadian industry is able to meet those requirements and enter into negotiations if required.
Export certifications will be issued to you if you meet the general requirements for export, and you are on any necessary export eligibility lists (see Export registers and lists). Exporters must be able to demonstrate that they have control measures in place to ensure the foods they export meet all applicable Canadian and importing country requirements, and that their procedures result in accurate export documents.
When requesting an export certificate or other export permission, exporters must provide the inspector with accurate and complete information and supporting documents, if required. Exporters must maintain documentation on file to support the information that is entered on the export certificate request form and the export certificate. At any time, CFIA inspectors may request the exporter's documents in order to verify that the information submitted is factual, accurate, and complete.
Examples of supporting documents:
- pictures or copies of the consignment product labels showing the establishment numbers, lot codes, product name
- pictures of the container or seal
- laboratory test results, if applicable
Applying for certificates online (e-Cert)
Many export certificates are processed through the CFIA's electronic certification; you can access this system through My CFIA. Exporters, verifiers, CFIA staff and others in the export chain use this online system to ensure that products are eligible for certification and to issue certificates. For a list of export certificates available through My CFIA can be found on the My CFIA Online Services page.
When you apply for certificates electronically, the system will identify if you are eligible for certificates for certain products and countries, and what notification of shipments, inspections, fees and additional supporting documents are required.
Fees and charges can apply for requesting export certificates and any related inspection activities.
If you do not wish to apply online, please contact your local inspection office (see Area and Regional Offices) for assistance.
In addition, some certificates are still issued through paper-based systems. If you cannot find the certificate for a product and country requirement in e-Cert, please contact your local inspection office.
Applying for replacement certificates
The CFIA may issue a replacement certificate for food exports, depending on the circumstances. Most commonly, administrative errors, a change of consignee, or a lost or damaged certificate are the reasons replacement certificates are requested.
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