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Notice to industry – Food misrepresentation

Canadian laws prohibit the misrepresentation of food. Mislabeling, adulteration and substitution of food are forms of misrepresentation that may constitute food fraud.

Food fraud deceives consumers and food businesses. It also creates an unfair marketplace for businesses that follow food labelling rules. In some cases, food misrepresentation can even affect the health of consumers, such as in the case of undeclared allergens or additives, or inaccurate nutrition claims.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) works at different levels of the food supply chain, including domestic manufacturers and importers, to verify that food is accurately labelled and not misrepresented. This includes targeted surveillance on commodities that are more susceptible to misrepresentation. During recent years, the CFIA has published reports summarizing these findings.

Industry is responsible for ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements. The purpose of this notice is to:

Canada's regulatory requirements for food

All food sold in Canada must comply with the Food and Drugs Act (FDA), the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR), the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR).

As per these requirements, all food sold in Canada must be safe for consumption and shall not be sold, packaged, labelled or advertised in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive [5(1), FDA; 6(1), SFCA]. Additional legislative and specific regulatory requirements also apply.

Learn more about labelling requirements and other regulatory requirements for food.

Obligations of industry

Regulated parties are responsible for ensuring all applicable legislative and regulatory requirements are met. Misrepresentation, adulteration, dilution and substitution of a food commodity are generally considered contraventions of the FDA and SFCA.

Under the SFCR, most Safe Food for Canadian licence holders must maintain a Preventive Control Plan.

The preventive control plan must include measures to ensure regulatory requirements are met, including:

Examples of preventive control measures may include supply chain controls such as obtaining verifiable assurance from suppliers of a product's authenticity, or conducting authenticity testing.

Control and enforcement measures for non-compliance

Industry is reminded that failure to comply with applicable legislative and regulatory  requirements with respect to the importation, distribution, or sale of food is a contravention of the FDA and/or the SFCA.

In cases of non-compliance, the CFIA can use a wide range of control or enforcement actions including, but not limited to:

Control and enforcement activities conducted by the CFIA are guided by the Standard Regulatory Response Process. These activities are considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the harm caused by the non-compliance, the compliance history of the regulated party, and whether there is intent to violate federal requirements.

Ongoing surveillance activities of the CFIA

CFIA will continue risk-informed activities to protect Canadians from misrepresentation and contribute to a fair marketplace.

The CFIA encourages all parties that are aware of or suspect deceptive or fraudulent practices to report these to the CFIA.

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