Understanding the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations
Understanding the Safe Food for Canadian Regulations: A handbook for food businesses is also available to help you understand how the requirements impact your business.
On this page
- Preventive controls and preventive control plans
- Importing food
- Exporting food
Note: For more information about licensing please visit the Licensing web page and the Exporting Food FAQs.
1. What is the new licensing system under the SFCR?
Now that the SFCR has come into force, the CFIA has introduced a new online licensing system. Food businesses can apply online for 1 or more Safe Food for Canadians licences (SFC licences) to conduct specific activities relating to food, such as importing, manufacturing, processing, treating or packaging. This licensing system replaces the former process for registering establishments as of January 15th 2019.
2. Why is the CFIA introducing the new licensing system?
The new licensing system:
- provides a consistent and universal means to identify who is involved in the production and supply of food in Canada, a key activity in maintaining food safety
- recognizes that not all food businesses are alike, and allows them to structure their licences to fit their unique needs
- aligns Canada's model with internationally accepted best practices for food safety and globally recognized Codex Alimentarius food standards
- demonstrates the CFIA's commitment to service and digital-first tools
3. What has happened to my previous licence or registration now that the regulations are in effect?
If you currently hold a registration or licence (permission) issued under the Canada Agricultural Products Act, Fish Inspection Act, or Meat Inspection Act, it will remain valid until it expires - provided there is a statement on it, or on your renewal letter, indicating it is also a licence issued under the Safe Food for Canadians Act. As expiration approaches, you are required to apply for a licence under the SFCR. You may add your previous registration/licence number in your enrolment profile. It will be used as your unique establishment identifier (where applicable) and continue to be used for export purposes to maintain continuity.
For more information refer to What to consider before applying for a Safe Food for Canadians licence.
4. I am not sure if my business needs an SFC licence; where can I find this information?
For information that will help you understand if the licensing requirements apply to your food business, refer to the various resources on the Licensing web page, including the Licensing interactive tool as well as the Food business activities that require a license under the SFCR.
5. When will I need an SFC licence and how do I apply?
For information on when you need to comply with licensing requirements, refer to the SFCR Timelines web page. Dates vary by food and activity so it is important to review the appropriate timetable for your sector.
Registrations and/or licences renewed before January 15th 2019 remain valid until expiry provided there is a statement on it, or on your renewal letter, indicating that it is also a licence under the Safe Food for Canadians Act. That licence will be considered valid for any other food commodity prepared within that establishment.
If your business does not have an existing CFIA licence or registration and the SFCR Timelines indicate that you need an SFC licence as of January 15, 2019 to continue operations, you should start by enrolling in My CFIA and create your account and business profile. Applications for a new SFC licence are available through the My CFIA portal. The guidance document Before you sign up for My CFIA will help you with the process.
Note that before you apply for a licence, you have to meet the requirements of Part 4 of the SFCR that apply to your food business. These relate to preventive controls, maintenance and operation of an establishment and preventive control plans. For more information, refer to Regulatory requirements: Preventive controls and Regulatory requirements: Preventive control plan.
For additional information, refer to What to consider before applying for a Safe Food for Canadians licence.
6. Can I get an SFC licence before the CFIA inspects my establishment?
In certain cases, yes, it is not expected that all establishments will be inspected before receiving a licence from the CFIA. The CFIA uses a risk-based approach to inspection which means that a variety of risk factors will be used to prioritize and manage inspection activities. The CFIA may also have to inspect licence holders requesting an export certificate, regardless of their risk profile, if it is a requirement of the importing country.
7. Can I conduct an activity that requires an SFC licence but is not indicated on my licence application?
No. You can only conduct an activity that it is identified in your licence application. The licence can be amended to include new activities, if needed. If the activity does not require a licence under the SFCA then it does not need to be included in your application.
8. I have a produce licence issued under the Licensing and Arbitration Regulations. What will happen to it now that the SFCR is in force?
Licences issued under the Licensing and Arbitration Regulations are not carried over under the SFCR. Instead, a membership with the Fruit and Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corporation (DRC) is required. The DRC is a non-profit organization that provides dispute resolution, consultation, mediation and arbitration for the produce trade.
9. What is the difference between a Safe Food for Canadians licence and a Dispute Resolution Corporation (DRC) membership?
An SFC licence is different from a DRC membership. An SFC licence identifies businesses and authorizes them to perform licensable activities. A DRC membership supports fair and ethical trading practices by facilitating effective trade dispute resolution, thereby minimizing trade irritants.
10. I import fresh fruits. Do I need to have an SFC licence and be a member of the DRC?
Yes, in order to import fresh fruits you need an SFC import licence and a DRC membership.
11. If I am sending food across provincial or territorial boundaries for business purposes, is it my responsibility to ensure that I acquired the food from an SFC licence holder?
Yes. A person who sends food across provincial and/or territorial borders is responsible to ensure that it was manufactured, processed, treated, preserved, graded, packaged, and labelled by a licence holder and that it meets SFCR requirements. An exception exists in the case of field packaging of fresh fruits and vegetables. Field packers do not require a licence as long as the fresh fruit or vegetable will be further processed in another province by a licence holder.
12. I already had a certificate of registration issued under the Fish Inspection Regulations that was in an inactive status when the SFCR came into force. Do I have to request re-activation now that the SFCR is in force?
No, if your certificate of registration had not expired when the SFCR came into force, it was automatically transitioned to an SFC licence. The ability to inactivate/reactivate a licence is not an option in the SFCR licensing system. This means that you now have an SFC licence that is active and you have to comply with the SFCR requirements as of January 15, 2019.
It is important that you identify, in your preventive control plan, the hazards that can be present because of a period of inactivity, particularly where incompatible activities may be conducted during this time. These are the hazards that present a risk of contamination to the food you prepare following this period (for interprovincial trade or export). You must also describe the control measures you apply to prevent, eliminate or reduce these hazards to an acceptable level.
For more information refer to section 5.17 Seasonal food businesses in the guidance document Food business activities that require a licence under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations.
13. I manufacture food in the US and export it to Canada. Do I need to apply for an SFC licence?
You do not need a licence to prepare food for export to Canada. Only the person importing the food in Canada requires a licence to import under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) and is responsible for meeting the other requirements of the SFCR. This includes having a PCP and meeting traceability requirements. The importer could be located in Canada or in the US.
The US is a country recognized by the CFIA as having a food safety system that provides the same level of protection as Canada's regulatory system. As per Subsection 12(1) of the SFCR, if the person importing the food is a non-resident importer (NRI) with a fixed place of business in the US, they are eligible to hold an import licence. In this case, the US business needs to meet the same requirements as Canadian importers, including:
- having a licence to import
- having a preventive control plan
- maintaining procedures and processes for handling and investigating complaints and recalls
- keeping clear and complete traceability records that show who the food was obtained from and to whom it was sent
1. What is the cost for a Safe Food for Canadians licence?
Please refer to CFIA's Fees Notice for current fee amounts. The licence will be valid for 2 years.
2. What are the changes to the fees in addition to an SFC licence?
In an effort to keep costs stable for businesses, minimal changes have been made to CFIA fees. For businesses that are currently paying establishment registration fees, these fees have been converted to establishment inspection fees. Please refer to CFIA's Fees Notice for current fee amounts. These are in addition to the SFC licence and will be payable upon the first inspection in a given year.
A high-level summary chart comparing previous and new fees is available to help businesses understand the changes by commodity.
3. Why are the charges for registration changing to charges for establishment inspection?
With the introduction of a common licensing regime through the Safe Food for Canadians Act and Regulations, the CFIA is no longer registering establishments. Current charges for registration are linked to the volume of production (for example registrations for a dairy establishment) or product processed (registrations for a fish and seafood processing establishment) to reflect the level of inspection conducted by the CFIA. As a result, the CFIA has converted registration fees to establishment inspection fees. Establishment inspection fees currently exist for some commodities (for example eggs and meat), and this approach brings some consistency to the Fees Notice.
Preventive controls and preventive control plans
Note: For more information about preventive controls and preventive control plans please visit Preventive controls for food businesses, Preventive control plan and Food-specific requirements and guidance: Meat products and food animals.
1. I am not sure if or when the requirements related to preventive controls and preventive control plans apply to my business; where can I find this information?
For information regarding if and when these requirements apply to your business, refer to the Preventive Control Plan interactive tool as well as the relevant timetable(s) listed here: Timelines.
2. What is the difference between preventive controls and a preventive control plan (PCP)?
Preventive controls refer to a combination of measures that form a system focused on: prevention to control risks to food safety, consumer protection and animal welfare during slaughter activities. They are based on the internationally accepted Codex Alimentarius General Principles of Food Hygiene CAC/RCP 1-1969 - PDF (234 kb) and the recommendations outlined in the World Organisation for Animal Health's Terrestrial Animal Health Code – Slaughter of Animals.
A preventive control plan (PCP) is a written document prepared, kept, maintained and implemented by a food business. It describes how hazards to a food are controlled as well as how the requirements for the humane treatment of food animals during slaughter activities and the requirements related to consumer protection (such as labelling, packaging, grading) are met.
3. The preventive control requirements indicate that I must have evidence showing that the control measures I use are effective. What does this really mean?
As a food business operator, describing the control measures you put in place to address each of your food safety hazards is an essential part of your food safety system. Equally important is collecting solid evidence to show that your control measures are actually effective in preventing, eliminating or reducing a hazard to an acceptable level. This is often referred to as validation. There are a range of approaches that can be used to obtain such evidence so that you can be confident you are using validated measures. The type and depth of information needed to demonstrate effectiveness depends on the type of control measure.
The process for obtaining evidence on the effectiveness of a control measure requires that you:
- know your food, the hazards and control measures
- obtain the evidence showing the control measures are effective
- document the evidence, including where and how it was obtained
Additional information can be found in the document Evidence showing a control measure is effective.
4. What is the difference between a hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) plan and a PCP?
A HACCP plan and a PCP both include a hazard analysis and a description of the control measures applied by a food business operator to ensure food safety. However, a PCP also includes a description of the measures applied to meet requirements related to the humane treatment of food animals and to consumer protection.
5. I already have a plan that is based on previous CFIA program requirements. Can I continue using this plan? (for example, a Quality Management Program (QMP) plan, a Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) plan, Quality Management Program for Importers (QMPI) plan, an Export Certification Control Program (ECCP) plan)
Yes, these plans will still remain relevant, however, it is important that you review and adjust them as needed to meet all the applicable preventive control requirements of the new regulations.
The QMP and FSEP plans are based on Codex principles and are both examples of a type of PCP. It is important for businesses that operate under an FSEP or QMP plan developed prior to the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) to review their plan against the preventive control requirements of the SFCR. For more information, refer to The Food Safety Enhancement Program approach to a preventive control plan and The Quality Management Program approach to a preventive control plan.
For more information on ECCP, see: A guide for preparing an Export Certification Control Program (ECCP) plan.
Note: For more information about traceability please visit Traceability for Food.
1. I am not sure if or when the traceability requirements apply to my business; where can I find this information?
Traceability requirements apply to most food businesses, including businesses that sell food to consumers at retail.
To find out what traceability requirements apply to your food business there are useful tools, tables and timelines to assist you.
- Refer to the Traceability interactive tool to determine if the traceability documentation requirements apply to your business.
- Refer to traceability-specific labelling requirements to determine if the traceability-specific labelling requirements apply to your business.
- The timelines for complying with traceability requirements vary by food and activity of the food business. Refer to Timelines to ensure you meet the applicable coming into force dates.
2. I am a wholesaler or distributor who buys food in Canada and then sells this food across provincial or territorial boundaries to food businesses, as well as directly to consumers; do I need to track the movement of all the food I sell forward to both business customers and to consumers?
Generally, wholesalers or distributors who buy and sell food within Canada (not importers) and trade food across provincial or territorial boundaries are required to trace the food they sell 1 step back and 1 step forward in the supply chain.
The sale of food directly to consumers is considered retail sale, therefore wholesalers and distributors who sell food directly to consumers are required to trace the food they sell 1 step back. They do not need to trace the food 1 step forward to the consumer.
3. I am an importer; what are my traceability requirements?
Importers need to prepare and keep documents to identify the food, trace the food 1 step back, and trace the food 1 step forward.
Importers must also ensure that a label is applied, attached, or accompanies the food when they provide it to another person. This label must include the common name, the name and principal place of business of the person by or for whom the food was manufactured, prepared, produced, stored, packaged or labelled and a lot code (if consumer prepackaged ) or other unique identifier that enables the food to be traced.
These requirements apply whether the imported food is traded from 1 province or territory to another, or stays within the same province or territory.
- Refer to the Traceability interactive tool to determine your traceability documentation requirements.
- Refer to traceability-specific labelling requirements to determine your traceability-specific labelling requirements.
4. a) The traceability requirements indicate that if I sell food at retail other than a restaurant or other similar enterprise that I have to meet requirements. How do I know if my business is considered a retail business versus a restaurant or other similar enterprise?
In order to determine whether you are a retail business or a restaurant or similar enterprise, you first must consider the main function of your business.
The traceability requirements apply to retail businesses such as supermarkets, grocery stores, bakeries and butcheries. This includes supermarkets that have some food service activities, such as salad bars, self-serve, single-serve items and meals-to-go within the store.
The traceability requirements do not apply to food service operations such as restaurants, buffets, cafeterias, fast food restaurants, caterers, food trucks and coffee shops. This includes food service operations that have some supermarket-style activities, such as restaurants and coffee shops that also sell prepackaged foods on-site, whether prepared on- or off-site. For example, a restaurant that sells prepackaged BBQ sauce or a coffee shop that sells prepackaged pastries will not be subject to traceability requirements.
4. b) I sell food to consumers at retail and I have determined I am not a restaurant or similar enterprise; what are my traceability requirements?
The traceability requirements apply to retail food businesses, such as supermarkets, farmers markets, grocery stores, bakeries and butcheries who sell food to consumers. These businesses are required to trace the food back to their immediate supplier, but are not required to trace forward to the consumer. Retailers are also required to meet traceability-specific labelling requirements.
- Refer to the Traceability interactive tool to determine your traceability documentation requirements.
- Refer to traceability-specific labelling requirements to determine your traceability-specific labelling requirements.
5. How do the traceability requirements apply to businesses that use cross-docking as a way to provide food to another person or business?
In general, "cross-docking" refers to the process of transferring food from an incoming vehicle directly onto an outbound vehicle. Cross docking typically takes place at a distribution center or warehouse, however there is no storage of the food at this location. The distribution center or warehouse does not enter this food into their inventory system.
If the food is provided to a warehouse and the warehouse provides that food to another person in a different province, the warehouse is required to trace the food 1 step forward and 1 step back. However, if the food is simply transferred at a warehouse location, directly from 1 truck to another, as in cross-docking, the warehouse is not required to trace the food. The traceability requirements apply to the food business that is providing the food and the food business that is receiving that food.
6. Do the traceability requirements differ based on my business model, for example franchises versus corporations?
No, traceability requirements apply consistently across business models. The requirements are based on the activity you conduct. In general, traceability requirements apply to most food businesses that:
- Import food
- Export food
- Distribute or trade food across provincial borders
- Make food for interprovincial trade or export
- Sell food to consumers at retail (not required to trace forward to consumers, only to track the incoming food they sell 1 step back)
For example, in the 2 scenarios below a distribution center who provides food to a grocery store in another province is required to trace the food 1 step forward and 1 step back regardless of the business model they follow:
- A distribution center and grocery store that operate under the same ownership
- A distribution center and independently owned franchise grocery store under different ownership
7. a) The traceability requirements indicate that I must identify my food using a lot code or unique identifier that enables the food to be traced; what is the difference between these terms?
A unique identifier refers to a code that you use to identify a defined quantity of food to allow it to be traced. Unique identifiers may include a lot code, best before date, purchase order number or bill of lading number.
A lot code refers to a type of code that you use to identify a quantity of food that was manufactured, prepared, produced, stored, graded, packaged or labelled under the same conditions. It can contain numbers, letters or both numbers and letters.
A Universal Product Code (UPC) or Price Look-Up (PLU) code is not considered a unique identifier since it does not identify a defined quantity of a food that is provided to another person.
7. b) Does the lot code have to be declared on the outside of a shipping container that contains consumer prepackaged food individually labelled with a lot code?
The lot code can be applied, attached or accompany the food. Since the lot code is on each individual consumer prepackaged product it does not need to be on the shipping container.
8. a) As it pertains to traceability-specific labelling requirements can I use a 'growing region' as an acceptable option for complying with the lot code labelling of consumer prepackaged fresh fruits or vegetables?
'Growing region' can be used as the lot code for consumer prepackaged fresh fruits or vegetables (FFV). A growing region could be a province/state or a sub-provincial/state where the FFV were grown. However, the growing region cannot be the country of origin. If a province or state is already included in the name and principal place of business, this would comply with the lot code labelling requirement as long as it is truly the province/state where the FFV were grown.
A more specific lot code – for example GPS coordinates, grower ID, establishment or SFC licence number – will help ensure a more timely removal of affected product during a food safety investigation or recall. This may limit the impact of a recall by excluding product not implicated in the event.
8. b) If a company decides to use growing region as a lot code on a consumer prepackaged fresh fruit or vegetable (FFV), how should this information be declared on the label? Can it appear on the bottom of the package?
The growing region, when used as the lot code, must comply with Section 208 (legibility) of the Safe Foods for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) and could appear on the bottom of the package. However, if the growing region is used in combination with an existing labelling requirement, for example, "name and principal place of business", the applicable labelling regulations for that requirement still apply. Refer to the Industry Labelling Tool for additional information on labelling requirements.
For more information about importing food, please visit Food imports.
1. Am I able to import a food that does not meet the requirements of the SFCR?
Yes, you can import non-compliant foods if:
- the food is labelled "for further preparation only" or "pour conditionnement ultérieur seulement"
- if you bring the food into compliance within 3 months once it has arrived in Canada
This exemption does not apply to meat products.
The SFCR also allows you to import non-compliant foods for the purpose of export, if:
- the food is labelled "imported for export" or "importé pour l'exportation"
- the food will be manufactured, processed, treated, preserved, graded, packaged or labelled for export
Keep in mind that, the following requirements must be met before they are imported:
- container size requirements for fresh fruits or vegetables, processed fruit or vegetable products, and honey
- grade requirements for fresh fruits or vegetables, processed fruit or vegetable products
2. The SFCR require certain information to be submitted to the CFIA in advance of the time of import. How much time in advance is the information required?
Import information could be submitted electronically to the Canada Border Services Agency via the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) any time before the shipment enters Canada – up to 3 months before time of import.
Please note that the information submitted in advance of import must still be accurate at the time of entry into Canada.
3. I hire a customs broker to import food. My broker does all the paperwork and handles all transactions related to the food. Am I required to obtain a licence to import?
Yes, the holder of a licence to import is the person responsible for ensuring that the food imported under their licence meets Canadian requirements. This is also the person the CFIA will deal with in the event of an issue or recall. You can choose to hire someone to help facilitate the import process (such as a customs broker), however, as the importer, you will hold the licence.
4. Does the SFCR apply to me if I am importing food products for use in pharmaceuticals or pet food?
No, the requirements of the SFCR apply to human food. The definition of food as per the Food and Drugs Act is any articles manufactured, sold or represented for use as food or drink for human beings, chewing gum, and any ingredient that may be mixed with food for any purpose whatever.
If you are importing food products for use in pharmaceuticals or pet food, and not for human consumption, your food does need to be labelled with a statement indicating "not for use as human food" or "ne peut servir à l'alimentation humaine".
Keep in mind: Although the SFCR may not apply to the food that is not for human consumption that you are importing, other legislation relating to pharmaceuticals or pet food may apply.
5. Does the SFCR apply to me if I am importing a low risk food?
The SFCR applies to all food commodities that are imported for human consumption regardless of the food safety risk posed by the food.
6. What if I am importing food for personal use?
The SFCR allows for a person to import food for personal use provided it meets the quantities set out in the Maximum Quantity Limits for Personal Use Exemption.
For more information about exporting food, please visit Food exports.
1. How does the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) apply to exporters?
An exporter can only export food that was manufactured, processed, treated, preserved, graded, packaged, labelled or slaughtered by a licence holder.
When there are no requirements in place in the foreign country, exported foods are required to meet the food safety requirements of the SFCR.
Generally, a person is permitted to export a food that does not meet Canadian requirements–as long as the provisions in section 16(1) of the SFCR are met. These requirements must always be met and relate to traceability, animal welfare, humane treatment of animals, preventive control plans, and workshift agreements. You are required to keep written documents that substantiate the foreign requirements have been met and your food must be clearly labelled for export.
Foods previously regulated solely under the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) that were not eligible to receive export certificates from the CFIA may now be eligible for certification under the SFCR.
If you need an export certificate from the CFIA, you need to have a Safe Food for Canadians (SFC) licence and a written preventive control plan, even if the food you are exporting is exempt from these requirements.
2. Our company has multiple establishments within our business; do I need multiple licences or 1 for all of them?
For businesses considering "exporting" or "preparing food for export", a single SFC licence per physical location for all activities carried out at that location is recommended to minimize disruption to trade. This is similar to previous establishment registrations.
Licence numbers on the export certificate, establishment eligibility list, and inspection legend (if applicable) need to be the same for the purpose of certification and when the shipment reaches the importing country's borders. If not, then this could result in delayed, detained or rejected shipments.
One SFC licence for multiple establishments may not meet the requirements of foreign trading partners (for example, China and the European Union) as some countries require each establishment/location to have a unique identification number.
For more information refer to What to consider before applying for a Safe Food for Canadians licence.
3. Can I have multiple licences for each of the different manufacturing lines in my establishment?
For businesses considering "exporting" or "preparing food for export", a single SFC licence per physical location for all activities is recommended in order to attempt to minimize disruption to trade.
Multiple licences at 1 physical address on export eligibility lists may also not meet the requirements of foreign trading partners (for example, China and the European Union) as the licence numbers will not be unique to 1 physical address.
For more information refer to What to consider before applying for a Safe Food for Canadians licence.
4. Can I keep using the establishment number I have under the former regulations?
Yes, operators can keep their previous registration or licence numbers against their new SFC licence to avoid disruption to trade. These are considered your unique establishment identifiers and may continue to be used on export certificates, export eligibility lists and packaging.
5. I hire a customs broker (and/or freight forwarder) to export food. My broker does all the paperwork and handles all transactions related to the food. Does my customs broker require a licence to continue to do this?
No, the holder of a licence to export is the person who is responsible for the food, and to verify that the food was prepared under their licence (or by another licence holder) meeting Canadian requirements and those of the foreign country. This is also the person the CFIA will deal with in the event of an issue or recall. An exporter can choose to hire someone to help facilitate their export process, such as a customs broker; however it is the party who prepares the food for export who always needs the licence. Exporters, whose sole activity is to export food, do not require a SFC licence (unless an export certificate or other export permission from CFIA is requested).
Meat brokers and meat traders
The CFIA will maintain the status quo for meat export processes to maintain market access and prevent negative impacts on existing trade relations. In future, the CFIA will be reviewing export certification processes, and will consult with all stakeholders including foreign competent authorities during any review of certification processes before making any changes.
The CFIA requires applications for meat export certificates to come from the licensed operator of the registered establishment. To clarify with SFCR terminology, the CFIA will continue to issue certificates following current processes under SFCR to the licensed food business conducting activities related to preparing for export at a domestic establishment. These activities could include processing, treating, preserving, storing, grading, labelling, packaging, or manufacturing. See Food business activities that require a licence under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations for more information.
- Meat broker
- The commercial entity that is not a principal in export sales transactions and does not take title/ownership of goods. They would only take a commission on the transaction done by 2 parties, usually the plant and the buyer.
- Meat trader
- The commercial entity that is a principal in export sales transactions and does take title/ownership of goods as well as arranging for their physical movement to foreign markets. Meat traders engage with foreign customers/stakeholders, and are the party declared on CFIA Official Meat Inspection Certificates (OMICs) as the exporter.
Questions and answers
6. Is an export licence required by a meat trading company to export meat? The health certificate is usually changing ownership from the packers to the trading company before port loading and then to the foreign importer weeks later upon payment.
No, meat traders are not required to have a SFC licence. In the SFCR, exporters are only required to have a licence if they request an export certificate. Meat traders, who would be considered exporters under the SFCR, will not be able to request export certificates at this time as the CFIA will only issue meat export certificates to the licensed operator of the establishment, that is to say, current registered domestic establishments.
Meat traders who are importing and exporting may voluntarily chose export on their licence as well as import; however, they will not be able to access export certificates from the CFIA.
7. Under what particular business model would a meat trading company need an export licence?
In accordance with existing procedures, meat trading companies will not need an export licence as the CFIA will only issue meat export certificates to the licensed operator of the establishment.
The SFCR requires exported food to have been prepared by a licence holder.
8. Is an import licence required by a trading company to import meat? If so, please confirm if it is a different 1 than for exports.
Yes, meat traders that own the meat shipment that is being imported require a licence to import meat.
Only 1 licence is needed for those wishing to import and export because both activities can be added to a single licence. The licence must indicate all activities/food commodities applicable.
9. Can a trading company without an import or export licence manage, by interacting directly with the CFIA, the process of returning a meat container/consignment they own back to Canada without having the original meat processing/packing establishment handle the process with the CFIA?
No, only a licence holder will be allowed to return meat shipments back to Canada and this would normally be the establishment of origin that requested the export certificate although a non-licensed trader can facilitate the return procedure (reference: SFCR § 22(1)(b)).
The CFIA currently works with all parties implicated in the shipment of Canadian goods returned to verify that the integrity of the container was maintained. Traders will not see any changes to the procedures for returning containers to Canada as a result of the SFCR. The product will still need to be presented at a licensed establishment for the purposes of inspection.
10. Can a trading company without a licence manage, by interacting directly with the CFIA, the process of getting replacement documents on a container/consignment that the trading company owns without having the origin establishment handle the process with CFIA?
Not currently. The CFIA is maintaining the status quo while we transition through the SFCR so even if a trading company had a licence, they would need to follow current processes.
11. Can a trading company have access to My CFIA and eventually retrieve an electronic certificate (e-certificate) for meat exports once the system is in place?
A trading company will have access to My CFIA if they are getting a licence, that is to say, if it is mandatory for some domestic and import activities and possibly for export of other foods and/or voluntary meat export.
The CFIA will look into the capabilities of My CFIA to support any future changes to the export certification process.
12. What are the requirements and options for trading companies (exporters) located outside of Canada buying meat products directly from Canadian plants? If a non-resident meat trader needed to be licensed by the CFIA, would they be eligible? Are there any implications for the future as well?
Non-resident exporters are subject to the same requirements and options available to meat traders.
13. Would trading companies with a licence for other food commodities, for example fruits or vegetables, have any advantage on the services they can provide managing meat versus trading companies specialized in meat?
No, trading companies with licences for other commodities will not have any advantage over those specializing in meat exports. While other commodity traders may become licensed and request certificates as per existing program structures for other foods, they will still need to go back to the operator of the meat establishment for the meat certificates.
14. What are the controls I need just for export?
To summarize, if you are producing the food, you need to maintain a record of the foreign country requirements that you are meeting (if different than Canadian requirements), and keep a record of the product specification and lot code or other unique identifier as part of your traceability requirements. If the food does not meet Canadian requirements, the product also needs to be labelled with the word "export" to ensure it doesn't end up in the Canadian marketplace.
If you are exporting the food, regardless if you manufactured the food or not, you are also responsible for ensuring that: the food was manufactured by a licence holder; the food meets the foreign country requirements, and the manufacturer and/or exporter (as applicable) is on the export eligibility list for a particular country. You also need to ensure you have controls and records relating to the export certificates or other permissions (as applicable) for your shipments.
For more specific information related to manufacturing food and export requirements, please refer to the following documents:
General food requirements and guidance
Exporting Food: A step-by-step guide
A guide for preparing an Export Certification Control Program Plan (ECCP)
Standards of identity
15. Does the food I manufacture always have to meet Canadian requirements related to standards and grades if I intend to export it?
No, the food does not have to meet the Canadian composition requirements if it meets the requirements in the foreign country. If you manufacture food that does not meet Canadian requirements, you are required to keep a record of the foreign requirement and/or specification you are manufacturing to and the associated lot information. The CFIA does not permit the export of foods that are marketed in a deceptive, false or misleading manner. The product must be identified as being for export, to ensure it will not end up in the Canadian marketplace should the product not be exported or if it was returned.
Export eligibility lists and certificates
16. Do I need a licence to export if I do not need an export certificate?
You do not need a licence or written preventive control plan (PCP) to export if you do not need an export certificate or any other permission from the CFIA. However, it is your responsibility to make sure that all the food you export has been manufactured, processed, treated, preserved, graded, packaged or labelled by a licensed food business.
Some countries require export certificates for food imported into their country. Often, export eligibility lists are used as a type of CFIA permission that verifies that the food is manufactured at a food business under a food safety program and under the CFIA's oversight. If an exporter, in addition to the manufacturer, is required to be on an export eligibility list for a particular country/commodity, then they both would need a licence and a PCP.
Manufacturer's Declaration Form (CFIA/ACIA 5280) and the Certificate of Free Sale (CFIA/ACIA 5786)
17. Am I still able to receive a Manufacturer's Declaration form under the SFCR?
The Manufacturer's Declaration Form (CFIA/ACIA 5280) has been phased out under the SFCR. Products previously only eligible to receive the Manufacturer's Declaration Form may be certified by a Certificate of Free Sale (CFIA/ACIA 5786) provided the exporter has a licence and a preventive control plan (PCP). There may be a fee for this certificate under the new user fees associated with the SFCR. Please refer to CFIA's Fees Notice for current fee amounts.
18. Why is the Manufacturer's Declaration Form (CFIA/ACIA 5280) not being issued after January 15, 2019?
The Manufacturer's Declaration Form (CFIA/ACIA 5280) is not an export certificate and was developed with the intent to support the non-federally registered food sector (NFRS) where CFIA did not have the authority to certify food exports under the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and Regulations (FDR).
The new SFCR provides the CFIA with authority to issue export certificates for all foods when a certificate is required by the importing country.
Effective January 15, 2019, the Manufacturer's Declaration Form (CFIA/ACIA 5280) will be replaced by the Certificate of Free Sale (CFIA/ACIA 5786) when a certificate or commercial document is required for export. This certificate will only be issued to food companies licensed under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR).
19. What is a Certificate of Free Sale?
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) form for the Certificate of Free Sale (CFIA/ACIA 5786) is available for food products manufactured by licensed parties under the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and SFCR. A Certificate of Free Sale is issued by the CFIA to meet an importing country's requirements when a certificate or commercial document is required for exported food products. For more information, please visit Certificate of Free Sale (CFIA/ACIA 5786).
20. What do I require to obtain a Certificate of Free Sale?
If you want to export your manufactured food products (products that were previously in the non-federally registered sector), and require a certificate of free sale, you must have a valid Safe Food for Canadians (SFC) licence to manufacture and/or export; and meet other SFCR requirements including a written preventive control plan (PCP).
21. What if a shipment is refused at the importing country's border?
Exporters should work with their local CFIA office when a shipment is refused at the importing country's border. Examples of reasons why a shipment would be refused could include, because of administrative errors on the certificate, or if the country does not recognize the Certificate of Free Sale (CFIA/ACIA 5786) for markets previously accepting the Manufacturer's Declaration Form (CFIA/ACIA 5280).
22. Am I eligible to apply for a Certificate of Free Sale online?
Initially, applying for a Certificate of Free Sale online through My CFIA will only be available to newly licensed food businesses under the SFCR for foods that fall in the manufactured foods category. These food businesses were not previously registered with the CFIA.
All previously registered food businesses should continue to apply for their export certificates through their local CFIA offices, until further notice.
23. What are the benefits of applying for the Certificate of Free Sale online?
Your online application takes only minutes to complete, provided you already have a My CFIA account. As part of the online application process once you log into your My CFIA account, you will be taken through a series of questions that will determine the requirements. Once completed, you will be able to immediately download and print an electronically signed certificate from your dashboard.
There are even more benefits of using My CFIA - such as the ability to use copy, re-use, and template functions, which will allow you to re-submit frequently used applications for exported commodities, saving you time.
24. Do I use the Certificate of Free Sale for all my food exports?
The Certificate of Free Sale should only be used if it is required by the importing country. This is the only certificate CFIA will issue for foods that fall in the manufactured food category; in other words, products that were previously in the non-federally registered sector.
The Certificate of Free Sale does not replace product-specific or commodity-specific certificates that have been negotiated with foreign countries. It also does not replace or preclude additional import requirements that may be established by the importing country. For any foods manufactured by a currently registered food business, the application for the Certificate of Free Sale or any other required export certificate must be made through local CFIA offices.
25. Do I need to print the Certificate of Free Sale?
Yes, the Certificate of Free Sale must be printed so it can accompany your shipment and be provided to the importing country.
26. How do I print my Certificate of Free Sale issued through My CFIA?
The certificate will be available for printing from your My CFIA account dashboard. Navigate to your issued certificate tab and select your certificate from the list. Under the export certificate documents, click and download your original export certificate. You will only be able to print the original certificate once, but you can print as many certified copies of the certificate as you need.
27. Can my shipment be accompanied with a certified copy of the Certificate of Free Sale or do I need the original certificate?
Your original Certificate of Free sale must be used as the official import document and must accompany your shipment. A certified copy can be forwarded as a duplicate to the importer, used for preclearance purposes and stored in your files.
28. What if I am exporting food for personal use?
In order for exported food to be considered for personal use, the food that is being exported must not be more than the quantity set out in the document entitled Maximum Quantity Limits for Personal Use Exemption, and must not be intended for commercial use. Please note that other countries have determined what they will accept without additional export controls. For example, the EU does not have an exemption for any dairy products entering the EU, even if they are for personal use. Please check with the country to confirm the import requirements before you plan to bring any type of food for personal consumption.
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