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Toolkit for food businesses

Don't let your food licence expire

Renewing is quick and easy. Find out how to renew or amend an issued permission.

If your business is new to federal food regulations, follow these steps to help understand the requirements of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR), as well as other food-related requirements.

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Examples of manufactured foods could include

  • confectionary, snack foods
  • beverages, coffee and tea
  • oils, dried herbs and spices, nuts and seeds
  • processed grain-based foods such as baked goods, cereals and pasta

The SFCR generally apply to businesses that import or prepare food for export or interprovincial trade. However, some traceability, labelling and packaging requirements also apply to food businesses that trade within one province or territory.


The SFCR came into force on January 15, 2019. Some of these requirements were phased in based on food commodity, type of activity and business size. See the SFCR timelines for more information.

Key requirements

Find out if the new requirements apply to your business

Do you need a licence, preventive control plan or traceability records? Find out by using these interactive tools:

Does your business require a licence?
Does your business require a preventive control plan?
Does your business require traceability records?

Apply for a licence through My CFIA

If you require a licence, you will need to apply for one using My CFIA.

If you have a My CFIA account, sign in.

If you don't have a CFIA account, sign up for one and create a profile for your business so that you can apply for a licence. You may choose to apply for one licence that covers all of your establishments, activities and types of food, or multiple licences that would cover unique combinations of establishments, activities and types of food.

You will need to correctly identify your commodity in order to complete the licence application.

Please note:

  • It may take up to 15 days to process a licence. In some cases, it could take even longer – for example, if your application is missing information or if the CFIA determines you need an inspection prior to issuing the licence.
  • If you are importing food into Canada, you must get your licence before presenting your shipment at the border. You will not be able to get a licence at the border.
  • In order to get a licence, you will need to meet preventive control requirements.

More information:

Preventive control requirements

Preventive controls address food safety hazards and reduce the likelihood of contaminated food entering the market. This requirement applies both to food prepared in Canada (including food for export) and imported food.

Most businesses will need to document their preventive controls in a preventive control plan (PCP). A PCP demonstrates how risks to food and food animals are identified and controlled. Small businesses in some sectors may not require a PCP. However, they must have preventive controls in place to maintain and operate the establishment in a clean and sanitary condition.

Businesses are also required to have a complaint, investigation, notification and recall system in place. For more information, please see Regulatory requirements: Preventive controls.

Please note:

  • Food businesses regulated under the Safe Food For Canadians Regulations (SFCR) must comply with preventive control requirements, even if they do not require a licence.
  • The SFCR include some outcome-based requirements, which specify the desired result that a regulation is intended to achieve, rather than describing a specific process or action that must be followed to achieve compliance. Preventive control plans must demonstrate that the required outcome is being met. For more information, please see: Outcome-based regulations fact sheet.
  • The CFIA will not pre-approve preventive controls. The Agency verifies that businesses have documented evidence that their control measures are effective. It is the responsibility of business owners to ensure they are meeting the requirements of the SFCR.

More information:

Traceability requirements

Traceability is the ability to track the movement of a food product, one step forward and one step back in the supply chain.

Keeping traceability records allows businesses to track food products in the event of a food safety investigation or food recall in order to protect consumers and potentially minimize economic losses.

Retailers only need to trace one step back, not forward to consumers.

More information:

Commodity-specific requirements

In addition to general requirements, you may need to meet requirements for specific food commodities:

Information for importers and exporters

Importers located in Canada

Importers need to ensure that the food they import is safe to consume and meets Canadian requirements. Imported food must be prepared with the same level of food safety controls as food prepared in Canada.

Please note: If you are importing food into Canada, you must get your licence before presenting your shipment at the border. You will not be able to get a licence at the border.

More information:

Foreign suppliers

Attention foreign suppliers: You must export food to Canada through a licensed Canadian importer. If you are a foreign business that prepares foods for export to Canada, you cannot apply for a licence under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) unless you qualify as a non-resident importer.

Exporters located in Canada

The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) require that foods exported from Canada are prepared under the SFCR, which are based on internationally recognized food safety controls. This enhances market access for Canadian exports.

As an exporter, the food you export needs to meet Canadian requirements, as well as those of the importing country, before you can export your food.

When there are no requirements in the foreign country, you still need to comply with applicable Canadian law, including the SFCR.

More information:

Packaging and labelling requirements

All food businesses need to meet certain labelling, packaging and advertising requirements.

Businesses must meet requirements under the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) in addition to those under the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR).

These acts and regulations are intended to protect consumers from food safety risks and enable them to make informed food choices based on information that is truthful and not misleading.

Note: some foods may require specific information on a label for traceability purposes; traceability-specific labelling requirements should be consulted for additional details.

More information:

Inspection and enforcement

The CFIA's enforcement approach to the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) balances the need to protect Canada's food safety system while supporting food businesses in complying with the regulations.

Since the regulations came into force on January 15, 2019, inspectors have been informing food businesses where they can find the information to help them comply with the regulations.

Enforcement actions, where applicable, are proportionate to the food safety risk and the seriousness of the non-compliance. Factors such as potential or actual harm, compliance history and intent are also taken into consideration.

More information:

Additional resources

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