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Understanding the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations: A handbook for food businesses

Purpose of the handbook

1. The handbook provides a general overview of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) to help you:

  • review and navigate through the SFCR, and
  • access other important electronic guidance materials to help you understand how these requirements impact your business.

Intended audience

2. The handbook is intended for food businesses, including exporters and importers, who need to comply with the SFCR. The SFCR came into force on January 15th, 2019.

3. The SFCR and the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) cover imported, exported, or inter-provincially traded food products. Some provisions of the SFCA and SFCR also apply intra-provincially.

Improving food safety in Canada

4. The safety of food is vital to all consumers and food businesses. Consumers want to be confident that the food they buy and eat is what they expect, and that it will cause them no harm. Consumer confidence is very important for food businesses.

5. Food safety affects all Canadians. It is the responsibility of all food businesses, no matter how large or small, to ensure anyone who is importing, exporting, manufacturing, processing, treating, preserving, grading, packaging, or labelling the food has not compromised food safety.

6. As a food business,you should familiarize yourself with the SFCA. The SFCA received royal assent (became law in Canada) in November 2012. It establishes a modern legislative framework for the safety of food commodities. The Act, which fully came into force on January 15th, 2019, when the SFCR was adopted, marked an important first step in the transformation of Canada's food safety system.

Why change

7. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is a global leader in regulating food, animal and plant health and safety. The existing control system has served us well, but it was developed decades before the creation of the CFIA, when most Canadian food originated in Canada, food technology was less evolved, and supply chains were simple. As risks to food, animal health and plants have changed considerably and continue to change rapidly, the Agency must continue to adapt and be more efficient and responsive while supporting Canada's ability to compete in the global market. These changes position the Agency as a nimble, responsive regulator.

8. By consolidating 14 sets of existing food regulations into a single set of regulations, the SFCR

  • improves consistency of rules across all types of foods, and between food businesses
  • reduces administrative burden, and
  • enables food businesses to be innovative through outcome-based provisions

9. A list of the 14 regulations, which were repealed when the SFCR came into force, is found in Annex A.

How does your business benefit

10. The SFCR are aligned with internationally recognized standards, such as Codex Alimentarius, for food safety and consumer protection requirements.

11. As a result of these regulations, food businesses subject to the SFCR are better able to:

  • use innovative technology
  • prevent foodborne illness outbreaks, and
  • rapidly remove unsafe food from the market when incidents occur

Roles and responsibilities

12. As a food business that is subject to the SFCR, you are responsible for the following

  • ensuring food you prepare domestically, import, or export is safe and meets the regulatory requirements
  • ensuring food is of a nature, substance and quality that complies with compositional and grade requirements, and
  • ensuring food is labelled, advertised and presented in a way that is not false or misleading and meets the regulatory requirements

13. It is the role of the CFIA to

  • verify compliance with regulatory requirements within its mandate through inspection and surveillance activities
  • take appropriate compliance and enforcement action, as deemed appropriate, when non-compliance is found
  • assist food businesses in understanding how to comply with all applicable federal food legislation and regulations

For more information refer to following CFIA web pages: Regulatory compliance, What to expect when inspected, and Compliance and enforcement.

14. Provincial and territorial authorities continue to enforce their applicable legislation for food. This will not change as a consequence of the SFCR. The CFIA continues to work closely with its provincial and territorial partners to help improve consistency and move towards a more national approach to food safety in Canada.

What other federal legislation applies to food

15. The following legislative regimes apply to food in Canada within the CFIA mandate:

  • The Food and Drugs Act (and the Food and Drug Regulations), will continue to apply to all food sold in Canada.
  • The SFCA and the SFCR mainly apply to food that is imported, exported and traded inter-provincially. Some requirements may also apply to certain food sold intra-provincially (refer to item 18).

16. CFIA could also issue Administrative Monetary Penalties (AMPs), which are issued under the authority of the Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act and Regulations (AAAMPA and AAAMPR). AMPs are part of a range of compliance and enforcement tools that the CFIA will use to encourage compliance with federal legislation and regulations it enforces. For more information refer to the CFIA's Compliance and Enforcement Policy.

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