Toolkit for food businesses
Don't let your food licence expire
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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.
On this page
General information about the SFCR and other federal laws that may apply to your business
Find out when the SFCR requirements apply to you
- Key requirements
Find out if you need to get a licence, and meet preventive control and traceability requirements
- Commodity-specific requirements
You may need to meet requirements for specific foods
- Information for importers and exporters
Ensure the food you import or export meets the requirements
- Packaging and labelling requirements
Learn how to comply with labelling, packaging and advertising requirements
- Inspection and enforcement
Prepare for an inspection and learn how we enforce regulations
- Additional resources
Questions and answers, fact sheets in multiple languages and backgrounders for media
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.
- Read our Handbook for food businesses for general information.
- For more details about the law, you can refer to the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR).
- In addition to the SFCA and SFCR, all food sold in Canada must meet applicable requirements of the Food and Drugs Act and Food and Drug Regulations.
- Provincial and territorial regulations may also apply to your business.
The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) came into force on January 15, 2019. Some of these requirements are being phased in based on food commodity, type of activity and business size.
- 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
- New requirements began to apply to businesses in the manufactured food sector on July 15, 2020. Some small businesses in this sector may have until July 16, 2021 to meet preventive control requirements.
- See the SFCR timeline for all other foods (manufactured foods).
- Please note: the CFIA is not prioritizing compliance activities with regard to SFCR requirements for the manufactured food sector at this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Effective November 1, 2022, the CFIA’s previously announced approach to the prioritization of compliance activities of the SFCR requirements for the manufactured food sector will end. For more information, consult the Notice to industry: Change in prioritization of compliance activities for manufactured foods beginning November 1, 2022.
- For businesses in other sectors, please see the timeline that applies to you.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- Fact sheet – available in multiple languages
- Detailed guidance: Preventive controls
- Food safety standards and guidelines
- Recall procedure: A guide for food businesses
- Construction and packaging materials and non-food chemicals
- Questions and answers on preventive controls
- Infographic: Key preventive food safety controls
- Infographic: Categories of hazards
- Video: Creating a PCP
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.
In addition to general requirements, you may need to meet requirements for specific food commodities:
- Dairy products
- Egg and processed egg products
- Fresh fruits or vegetables
- Manufactured food (all other food)
- Meat products and food animals
- Processed fruit or vegetable products
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Enforcement fact sheet
- Detailed guidance: Inspection and enforcement
- Infographic: What to expect when you're inspected
- Questions and answers on the SFCR
- Glossary of key terms
- Fact sheets on the SFCR – available in multiple languages
- Support for small businesses
- Backgrounders for media
- Food industry notices
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