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General Principles of Food Hygiene, Composition and Labelling

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Effective hygiene controls are vital to preventing food borne illness, food borne injury and food spoilage. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) General Principles of Food Hygiene, Composition and Labelling (GPFHCL) is designed to serve as a guideline for Canadian food manufacturers and to assist them in establishing manufacturing practices that maintain food safety and meet regulatory requirements.

The CFIA has expanded the original Code of Practice – General Principles of Food Hygiene to address food compositional and labelling requirements. To reflect this change, the Code was renamed the General Principles of Food Hygiene, Composition and Labelling (GPFHCL). This expanded document includes the key controls necessary for manufacturers to control the safety, labelling and composition of food during manufacturing, processing, storage or distribution. It provides a sound foundation for the development of a system for ensuring food safety based on HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) principles. Although the GPFHCL is not meant to serve as a complete HACCP plan, it is a useful reference. Additional reference material can be found on the CFIA website.

The GPFHCL: An Assessment Tool

The GPFHCL is generic in nature, and the principles found within this document may be applied to all food processing or manufacturing establishments, regardless of their size or the food products they produce. In cases where manufacturers require further guidance, the CFIA may develop specific codes of practice for a variety of situations.

The CFIA's inspectors will utilize the GPFHCL to assist them in assessing whether an establishment complies with the requirements of the Food and Drugs Act, the Food and Drug Regulations and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and Regulations. The GPFHCL is designed for establishments that are not specifically regulated under federal trade and commerce legislation such as the Meat Inspection Act, the Fish Inspection Act and the Canada Agricultural Products Act.

The GPFHCL is based on the Recommended International Code of Practice - General Principles of Food Hygiene adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission in 2003. This is consistent with the World Trade Organization's Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement), which directs members to base their sanitary and phytosanitary measures on international standards, guidelines and recommendations.

Using the GPFHCL

Each section of the GPFHCL describes specific requirements. Each sub-section includes a principle statement (in a box) and, when necessary, a rationale, followed by the CFIA's assessment criteria.

Principle Statement

Principle statements are outcome-based generic statements of objectives similar to those found in the Codex Code. They are intended to capture the intent of the guideline while allowing flexibility in addressing specific products or processes.


Rationales are included only when the principle statement needs explanation. They are included in several chapters (such as Control of Operation, Equipment, and Records) to explain the nature of the concern or potential hazard(s) and the need for control.

Assessment Criteria

Assessment criteria in the GPFHCL will describe the factors used in assessing a manufacturer's adherence to the objectives in the principle statement. The CFIA considers these factors during the course of its risk-based investigation or inspection activities in the non-federally registered sector.

The assessment criteria are intended to guide industry. The CFIA recognizes that there may be alternative means of meeting the intent of the principle statement other than those specified in the assessment criteria. These alternative means may include a specific process step that will be used to control an associated food safety risk or meet a regulatory requirement. Therefore, the CFIA has carefully worded the document to accommodate options or equivalents.

The CFIA also recognizes that manufacturers may require additional guidance to expand upon the hygiene, labelling and compositional requirements associated with specific products or manufacturing processes. This guidance will be further developed as needs are identified.

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