A Blueprint for Imports
Continuous improvement is key to import programs remaining effective, efficient and current. We welcome your comments or questions. Contact us at CFIA.Future-Futur.ACIA@Canada.ca.
On this page
- 1.0 Introduction
- 2.0 Purpose
- 3.0 Context
- 4.0 Partners
- 5.0 Outcomes of an import program
- 6.0 Guiding principles
- 7.0 Goals
- 8.0 Key activities
- 9.0 High level import program
- Annex A: Import Program logic model
Safeguarding the health and well-being of Canada's people, environment and economy is the driving force behind Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) programs. To meet this objective, the CFIA designs and develops programs and frameworks that meet Canadian requirements and international standards. It also enforces regulations for food, plants and animals and their inputs.
Imported food, plants and animals and their products must meet Canadian requirements. To verify compliance with these requirements, the CFIA implements control measures at strategic points along the import continuum, from the foreign country to the domestic market.
The CFIA's import programs have consistently mitigated threats to food safety, and plant and animal health, in Canada. However, the CFIA needs to adapt its import control programs to meet the challenges of an increasingly global marketplace. It needs to deal with changing industry requirements, modern tools and technology, expanding global markets, diversification of consumer demands and evolving partner relationships.
This document describes the following aspects of import programs:
- guiding principles
- key activities
- a logic model
This document provides a clear and transparent outline of the CFIA import programs to industry stakeholders and associations, other government departments and international trading partners, and CFIA personnel.
In 2018, Canada imported $607 billion worth of goods, an increase of 5.8% from 2017. 64% of these goods are from the United States. Since 2014, the monetary value of imports of food (including beverages), as well as regulated articles involved in crop and animal production, have increased 3% from $39.8 billion to $41.1 billionFootnote 1.
There are many reasons why goods are imported into Canada. Those reasons include the following:
- the inability to produce them in Canada (for example, rice, oranges)
- the high cost of producing them in Canada
- a lack of raw materials or processing capacity
- the purchasing desires of a diverse population
- items for events (for example, race horses, agricultural fairs)
- gaps in the Canadian ecosystem (for example, plants for propagation, animals and germplasm for farming or aquaculture)
Today, Canada imports food, plants, animals and their products from over 194 countries, with over 50% of the imports originating from the United States. This represents a remarkably diverse and complex importing landscape and it creates unique challenges for managing risks. Further, some exporting countries have very robust and advanced control systems in place, while other countries are in the process of developing effective domestic and export control systems. There can also be variations in domestic controls within exporting countries that are specific to the commodity being exported. In addition, goods can move from one side of the globe to the other in less than a day, making it difficult to respond to issues in a timely manner.
The CFIA receives over 5,000,000 import transactions annually. It reviews all imported commodities, which must meet the same outcomes as domestically available commodities. However, like with domestically available commodities, it is impossible to physically examine every product entering the country. Since import controls must target the highest risk, it is crucial to have an agile, effective and efficient risk-based import program.
Food plays a significant role in the lives of Canadians, from basic sustenance to social interactions, religious observances and cultural traditions.
The food industry makes significant contributions to the Canadian economy. This includes crop inputs (pest control products, fertilizer), farmers, producers, retailers, as well as secondary industries such as restaurants and food service.
The food choices of Canadians reflect the diversity of the country's population and Canadians have embraced the new foods appearing on the market. Not only are Canadians consuming more imported foods, domestically processed foods often contain imported ingredients such as salt, additives, and sugar. As a result, most Canadians consume imported foods, either directly or as ingredients in domestically processed foods, every day.
From time to time, illness outbreaks related to food and food safety issues occur. These can have significant impacts, including:
- removal of food from the marketplace and a gap in supply
- loss of confidence in the safety of the food supply
- additional burdens on health services, including hospitalizations and deaths
- loss of sales leading to productivity losses and business closuresFootnote 2
- implementation of control measures and increased oversight of industry by the CFIA
Case study: romaine lettuce
In the fall of 2018, there was an E.coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce from the Salinas Valley in California, U.S. On November 22, 2018, the Public Health Agency of Canada advised Canadians to not eat this lettuce, and told retailers and food service establishments to not sell or serve any romaine lettuce harvested from the Salinas Valley region.
Leafy greens, such as lettuce, can become contaminated in the field by soil, water, animals or improperly composted manure. Lettuce can also be contaminated by bacteria during and after harvest, from handling, storing and transporting the produce.
In Canada, individuals became sick between mid-October and mid-November 2018. There were 29 confirmed cases of E. coli illness investigated in Ontario (5), Quebec (20), New Brunswick (1) and British Columbia (3). 10 individuals were hospitalized and 2 individuals suffered from hemolytic-uremic syndrome, which is a severe complication that can result from an E. coli infection. No deaths were reported. Individuals that became ill were between 2 and 93 years of age. The majority of cases (52%) were female.
During the outbreak investigation, the CFIA advised industry not to import, distribute, sell, serve or use romaine lettuce from the suspect areas, and verified that these actions were implemented in the Canadian marketplace. Additional import control measures were put in place (requirement for a certificate), resulting in enhanced oversight by the CFIA at time of import.
The Canadian outbreak was declared over on December 24, 2018, and the investigation was closed.
During the course of this outbreak, 2 individuals were hospitalized with serious complications. In addition, this outbreak caused damage to the fresh vegetable industry with a loss of consumer confidence in imported romaine lettuce and other leafy greens.
3.2 Plants and animals
The introduction of an invasive species or a foreign animal disease can be catastrophic to the Canadian economy and environment. So can the spread of animal diseases already present in Canada that are subject to CFIA regulatory controls (for example, zoonoticFootnote 3 diseases or diseases with limited geographic occurrence). Any of these can have detrimental effects on the health of Canada's animal and plant resources, the economy and the environment. Examples of impacts that could occur from the introduction of an animal disease or plant pest include:
- animal and plant production losses or decreased yields
- increased costs of production resulting in a lack of available resources and loss of competitiveness for Canadian products and producers
- economic losses, loss of consumer confidence and health risks associated with the import of unapproved fertilizer products, seed or vet biologics
- harm to wildlife populations and their related industries resulting in loss of income and tourism and negative effects on fishing, harvesting, hunting and other social activities
- loss of ecosystems, biodiversity and natural habitats
- illness or death of farm animals and the impacts of regulated animal slaughter and carcass disposal for disease control/eradication
- illness or death of other animals, wild or domestic
- resources and financial costs to CFIA, other government departments, other levels of government and industry, for efforts to eradicate or control pests and diseases, and any associated compensation
- the need for case and contact management, such as isolation and quarantine
- loss of access to foreign markets for Canadian products
- reputational damage related to animal, plant and food industry or government
- introduction of animal disease or plant pests that impact Indigenous Peoples
Case study: emerald ash borer
Emerald ash borer (EAB) is a destructive invasive pest that attacks and kills all species of ash trees (except the mountain ash). EAB is native to China and eastern Asia and was first detected near Windsor, Ontario in 2002. As of 2013 it had been detected in 17 Quebec municipalities and 37 Ontario counties, and was confirmed as far north as Sault Ste. Marie. As of March 2020, EAB can be found in 5 provinces (Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec). It is thought that the pest was present before 2002 and significant economic and ecological impacts have occurred. It is believed that EAB was accidentally introduced to North America in imported wood packaging or crating material.
Data from Ontario in 2013 showed that infested municipalities have spent $71 million and had planned expenditures of $365 million over the next 10 years to manage the impacts of the pest
Ash trees are an important part of Canada's urban and rural landscape. They are commonly found on city streets, in woodlots, in windbreaks and in forests across southern Canada. In many areas of western Canada, ash trees are one of the few suitable for planting in urban areas. Ash wood is also used to make furniture, hardwood floors, baseball bats, tool handles, electric guitars, hockey sticks and other materials that require high strength and resilience. It is thought that millions of ash trees have been killed or proactively removed in the response to EAB.
Prevention is the most effective way to protect the plant and animal resource base. It also eliminates the financial and resource impacts outlined above. The CFIA estimates the annual cost of invasive species to be $30 billion ($20 billion in the forest sector, and $2.2 billion for invasive plants (for example, weeds) in the agricultural sector).
The most effective risk controls are those that occur outside of Canada, preventing the pest or disease from entering Canada. It saves money in the long run to invest in prevention efforts when dealing with invasive species rather than paying the extensive costs associated with managing them after their arrival and establishmentFootnote 4. For example, once a plant pest is established in the natural environment, eradication becomes not only costly, but often impossible.
Case study: bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)
BSE is a progressive, fatal disease of the nervous system of cattle. It is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). Other TSEs include scrapie in sheep, chronic wasting disease in deer and elk, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. BSE is associated with the presence of an abnormal protein called a prion. There is no treatment or vaccine currently available for the disease.
BSE has been a reportable disease in Canada since 1990. The first case was found in 1993, in a purebred beef cow imported from Great Britain in 1987. BSE was discovered in a Canadian-born animal in 2003, detected through surveillance measures implemented following the cases in Europe in the 1990s. From 2002 to 2005, the estimated cost from BSE to Canada was $4.22 billion. The discovery of BSE in a Canadian animal in May 2003 caused the U.S. and other countries to close their borders to shipments of Canadian cattle and beef products. By the end of 2004, financial losses for Canadian producers reached $5.3 billion.
The Plant and Animal Health Strategy for Canada (July 2017) is an integrated plan for improving Canada's ability to respond to changing needs, challenges and opportunities. Partners include federal, provincial, and territorial governments, industry and producers, academia, and other stakeholders.
These are some expected results of an ideal system:
- risks controlled at critical points
- access to accurate and timely information to inform action
- preparedness to respond to and recover from plant- and animal-related emergencies
- coordinated and timely activities by all partners
If these measures are in place, the risks to Canada's animal and plant health resource base are mitigated.
There are many partners involved in the value chain when importing food, plants and animals and their products, from foreign industry suppliers and the associated foreign competent authorities to Canadian importers. Canadian importers are responsible for ensuring that the goods they import into Canada meet Canadian requirements. This includes the following actions:
- presenting goods and documentation at the time of importation for inspection
- ensuring that regulations and standards are met
- allowing access to importing establishments once a good arrives in Canada
Several federal government departments play a role in managing imports.
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for verifying that imported food, plants and animals meet Canadian requirements. This is done by using control measures at strategic points along the import continuum, from foreign country to domestic marketplace.
Canada Border Services Agency
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) facilitates the flow of legitimate travellers and trade by enforcing more than 90 acts and regulations that keep Canada and Canadians safe. The CBSA controls the movement of goods into the country and conducts inspections and other activities at airports, marine terminals, mail/courier facilities and land border crossings.
Global Affairs Canada
Global Affairs Canada (GAC) issues permits for goods on the Import Control List under the authority of the Export and Import Permits Act. For more information on agricultural products that are subject to import controls, see the controlled products web page. GAC Foreign Trade Service assists CFIA with foreign trade partners when negotiating import market access.
Health Canada (HC) is responsible for:
- establishing policies, regulations and standards for the safety and nutritional value of all food sold in Canada and for conducting health risk assessments for food
- protecting animal health through standard setting, evaluating and monitoring of the safety, quality and effectiveness of veterinary drugs, and promoting the prudent use of veterinary drugs administered to food-producing and companion animals
- establishing policies and programs for regulating pesticides in Canada under the Pest Control Products Act
Public Health Agency of Canada
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is responsible for specific sections of the Health of Animals Regulations by issuing import permits for animal pathogens and products that contain animal pathogens (for example, cultures). It also holds an advisory role regarding emerging animal pathogens.
Environment and Climate Change Canada
Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is responsible for:
- protecting species of wild animals and plants in international trade, including those subject to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
- preventing the importation of terrestrial animals that can endanger Canadian species, by diseases or other changes they bring to Canadian ecosystems
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is responsible for:
- preventing the introduction of aquatic invasive species into Canada
- establishing import requirements for fish and seafood related to international and multilateral agreements with respect to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing
Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service
The Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service (CFS) is responsible for:
- providing science and policy expertise on forest pests
5.0 Outcomes of an import program
A logic model for a CFIA import program can be found in Annex A of this document.
The CFIA import program has 4 outcomes:
- protect Canadians from preventable health risks related to imported food and zoonotic diseases, and from deceptive practices
- maintain market fairness and a level playing field for domestic and foreign producers
- protect the plant and animal resource base from non-native pests and diseases
- prevent pest and diseases of limited distribution within Canada from being introduced to new regions
These outcomes are supported by regulated activities and outputs, with inputs (for example, people and resources) to drive the import program.
Regulated activities include:
- disease and pest control programs
- import requirements that must be met before arrival in Canada
- regulations, inspection, and compliance verification
- educational material
- negotiated zoosanitary and phytosanitary certificates for trade
- recognition agreements
Together these activities and inputs result in outputs that lead to achievement of the outcomes.
6.0 Guiding principles
In order to maintain a robust, science-based and transparent import program, CFIA will apply the following guiding principles:
- Protect animal, plant, and public health, the environment and the economy
- Respect international rules
- Create a level playing field
- Maintain commitment to science-based decision making
- Apply risk control measures at the most effective point in the import process
- Be open and transparent
- Partner wherever possible
- Commit to continuous improvement
- Be flexible and adaptable
Protect animal, plant, and public health, the environment and the economy
Through its mandate, the CFIA is committed to protecting Canadians from unsafe foods and the transmission of zoonotic diseases, and protecting the animal and plant resource base and environment from animal diseases and plant pests. Together these efforts result in protecting the Canadian economy from costs associated with the introduction of unwanted animal diseases and plant pests and unsafe food, as well as from unfair and misleading marketing practices.
Respect international rules
As a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), as well as under bilateral or plurilateral trade agreements such as the Canada-United States-Mexico Trade Agreement (CUSMA, formerly NAFTA), Canada enjoys certain rights and it respects its obligations with regard to trade.
Under the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS Agreement), the following are recognized as the international standard setting bodies for food, plant health and animal health respectively:
- the joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Program (Codex)
- the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC)
- the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)
Create a level playing field
The CFIA applies the same level of protection to domestically produced and imported foods, plants, animals, and their products. Imported products are expected to achieve at least the same outcome of safe food and protection from plant pests and animal diseases. It is important to note that the activities used to achieve this outcome may differ, but the outcome remains consistent.
Maintain commitment to science-based decision making
Science plays a crucial role in CFIA decision making. Although other factors may be taken into account when determining actions to address an issue, the CFIA does not manipulate science to achieve a specific outcome; decisions are based on scientific evidence.
Apply risk control measures at the most effective point in the import process
Risk can be introduced at various points along the import continuum, from the foreign exporter or shipper to the domestic importer or the end user. Through situational analysis and collaborative discussions, the most appropriate risk control measures to address an identified risk are applied at the most effective point along the continuum. This may result in actions being taken at different times:
- prior to arrival with trading partners and foreign exporters (for example, disease testing, inspections, negotiations)
- at the border (for example, inspections, import restrictions and alerts)
- within Canada (for example, importer inspections/sampling, quarantine, and notices to importer and end users)
The CFIA considers the entire range of risk control measures and tools when selecting the most appropriate action(s).
Be open and transparent
The CFIA is open by design. The agency proactively provides relevant, accurate and timely information, as well as meaningful and transparent engagement opportunities. Having relevant, accurate and timely information means that Canadians, regulated parties, and international entities will be able to better understand how and why the agency's regulatory decisions are made. They will, in turn, use this information to make informed decisions for themselves.
Partner wherever possible
Partnering with others should be a key aspect of any import program. A global approach is necessary to leverage the activities of others and to share experiences and expertise. Partners can include foreign competent authorities, international organizations, import associations and other domestic government departments.
Animal, plant, and food safety programs review and revise import programs and specific commodity requirements based on information related to risks. All risk control measures available to the CFIA are considered in risk management, and these guiding principles are integrated into every step of the import program design. Establishing performance indicators, and measuring against them, will mean that the program is continuously evaluated and improved. This will result in an import program and activities that achieve the goals and objectives of the program.
Be flexible and adaptable
The import landscape is dynamic and the world is constantly evolving. There is always new science, emerging pests and diseases and new food safety risks, as well as new tools and regulated articles. These are being introduced at an ever-increasing pace. It is essential that the CFIA has the best tools and information, so that our import programs are flexible and adaptable enough to respond to the changing international scene.
These 4 goals express the intent of this import blueprint.
- Goal 1: Food, plants and animals and their products that are presented for import into Canada meet regulatory requirements
- Goal 2: CFIA activities prevent the entry of non-compliant regulated articles
- Goal 3: When issues are identified, undertake rapid and effective response
- Goal 4: Import programs are designed to be effective and efficient, based on risk, have clear performance measures, and are subject to analysis and evaluation to ensure and continuous improvement
Goal 1: Food, plants and animals and their products that are presented for import into Canada meet regulatory requirements
The most effective risk control measure is to import regulated commodities that are compliant when they enter the country. Using in-Canada resources to manage import risks can be minimized by importers ensuring that regulated commodities are compliant before or at time of import. For plant pests and animal diseases, it is not always possible to detect that a commodity has a plant pest or animal disease at the time it arrives at the border. As such, prevention at source is the most effective way to stop a disease or pest from being introduced into Canada.
Importing compliant regulated commodities can be achieved by verifying that foreign competent authorities and foreign exporters have the tools necessary to meet Canadian requirements. Tools can include the following:
- clear and easily accessible Canadian standards and requirements
- transparent and standardized tools for evaluating countries' food safety and animal or plant disease and pest controls systems
- technical assistance for foreign competent authorities and foreign exporters to improve understanding of Canadian requirements
Canadian importers also need to have appropriate tools to achieve compliance. These include:
- clear and transparent information on import requirements, including regulatory interpretation and guidance documents
- a robust tool to obtain information on import requirements via an online, searchable and easy-to-use repository of import conditions that is maintained and is up-to-date
- an effective inspection regime for domestic importers
Achieving these desired outcomes is supported by these activities:
- engaging effectively with the international community to influence international standards and activities
- leveraging the activities of like-minded countries
- assessing the regulatory system of foreign countries and entering into arrangements recognizing those systems
Goal 2: CFIA activities prevent the entry of non-compliant regulated articles
Despite the best efforts of importers and the government, non-compliant regulated commodities will be presented for import. For animals and plants, where it is often costly and not effective to eradicate animal diseases or plant pests once introduced, it is vitally important to put effective measures in place to prevent non-compliant items from entering the country.
These are some measures to prevent the entry of non-compliant regulated articles:
- using border controls effectively (for example, blitzes, targets)
- using permissions and certificates with risk mitigation measures effectively
- doing commodity inspection by the government or via alternative service delivery at time of import
- developing guidance, including compliance verification and enforcement, for inspection activities
- providing clear, available and up-to-date import requirements for border admissibility decision
Goal 3: When issues are identified, undertake rapid and effective response
Non-compliant and unsafe regulated commodities will enter Canada from time to time. For this reason, it is important to have effective and efficient processes and procedures to respond. This includes clear procedures and tools to control risks (for example, seizure, quarantine), as well as emergency response procedures to respond to food illness outbreaks and pest/disease incursions. Response to non-compliance should be commensurate to the risk posed to Canadians, the environment and the economy.
Goal 4: Import programs are designed to be effective and efficient, based on risk, have clear performance measures, and are subject to analysis and evaluation to ensure and continuous improvement
CFIA's import program should be effective, efficient and current. To achieve this, it needs to be continuously improved.
To achieve continuous improvement, the following steps need to be in place:
- developing performance indicators
- measuring activities against those indicators
- modifying the program where necessary
8.0 Key activities
The CFIA undertakes several key activities to prevent and respond to risks posed by imported regulated articles (see diagram 1 below). These activities can be outside of Canada, at border points or in-country. They can be taken with foreign entities, domestic importers and consumers.
Diagram 1: Activities to prevent/respond to risks from imported regulated articles
8.1 Pre-border activities
The objective of pre-border activities is to mitigate risk before commodities are presented for import in Canada. Where risks are higher, this is done primarily at the level of the Foreign Competent Authority, but other approaches are available for lower-risk products.
8.1.1 International standard setting bodies and international agreements
The CFIA engages with international organizations such as the Codex Alimentarius (Codex; food), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE; animal) and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC; plant) under the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). The CFIA also follows provisions contained in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the WTO SPS Agreement) and relevant provisions in Canadian Free Trade Agreements.
- Codex Alimentarius
- A collection of internationally adopted food standards, guidelines and codes of practice that contribute to the safety, quality and fairness of international food trade.
- An intergovernmental organization responsible for improving animal health worldwide. The OIE also safeguards world trade by publishing health standards for international trade in animals and animal products.
- An international treaty that aims to secure coordinated, effective action to prevent and control the introduction and spread of pests of plants and plant products. The Convention provides a framework and a forum for international cooperation, harmonization and technical exchange between contracting parties.
- WTO SPS agreement
- A multilateral framework of rules and disciplines to guide the development, adoption and enforcement of sanitary and phytosanitary measures. Includes the issuing of notifications to foreign countries regarding changes to Canadian standards that may affect regulated articles exported to Canada and commenting on notifications from foreign countries regarding changes to their standards that may affect commodities exported to Canada.
- Free trade agreements
- Canada has entered into 14 bilateral or plurilateral trade agreements, ten of which have chapters dedicated to managing sanitary and phytosanitary measures.
8.1.2 Regulatory cooperation
Canada engages with trading partners through bilateral or multilateral discussions. For example, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States formed a quadrilateral discussion forum called the Quads. Canada also engages directly with the U.S., and with the U.S. and Mexico via a trilateral arrangement. These partnerships are fora to discuss areas of common interest, resolve trade issues and address sanitary/phytosanitary measures.
Case study: Regulatory Cooperation Council – emergency transit of live animals through Canada or the U.S.
In 2016, under the Canada–United States Regulatory Cooperation Council, CFIA and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) agreed to develop a joint policy for the transit of regulated animals through both countries during emergency situations. Emergency situations include natural or man-made disasters, or when routine transportation routes are impaired without feasible alternatives.
Under this policy, an import permit would not be required for the transit of regulated animals during these emergency situations.
The CFIA–USDA APHIS joint policy has been developed. Amendments to Canada's Health of Animals Regulations (emergency transit of regulated animals) are planned.
8.1.3 Off-shore pre-inspection
Inspecting imports at the point of supply facilitates import decisions. Goods are assessed to meet import requirements at their point of export. Once assessed, the shipment is considered to be pre-cleared and is subject to a much lower inspection rate when it arrives at the Canadian border.
For example, under the Netherlands Dormant Perennials and Flower Bulbs Preclearance Program, the CFIA works with USDA and the Netherlands National Plant Protection Organization to inspect plant materials before they are exported to Canada and the U.S. These inspections, conducted at the request of exporters, take place in the bulb-growing areas of the Netherlands. CFIA staff work as part of an inspection team, along with representatives from the Netherlands National Plant Protection Organization.
8.1.4 Foreign country assessments
The Government of Canada can determine whether a country's regulatory program is designed to meet Canada's regulatory import requirements and that mitigation measures are being implemented effectively.
It does this by assessing a country's national regulatory control system or its control program for a particular commodity. The assessment can identify gaps and make recommendations for improvement, or it can verify that the foreign system achieves the same (or higher) outcome(s) as the Canadian system. Assessment activities can range from a document review or a questionnaire to an on-site evaluation in the foreign country, with or without an evaluation of foreign establishment in that country.
Foreign country assessments for animal health
CFIA animal health legislation allows Canada to reduce the risk of non-complaint commodities entering Canada. It does this by providing the authority to evaluate foreign country systems of animal health regulatory controls and by allowing countries to enter into agreements with Canada for import.
This approach further benefits Canadians and Canadian importers by reducing reliance on costly at-border inspections. It also limits inspection activities to the highest-risk commodities (for example, live animals and some products). Developing a standardized and transparent country evaluation tool, based on the OIE Performance of Veterinary System (PVS) tool, is an example of how CFIA can leverage the international to reduce risks to the animal resource base.
8.1.5 Technical assistance
Hazard-specific information sessions and workshops can be held with foreign government representatives and foreign manufacturers to enhance awareness and understanding of the Canadian food safety system and Canadian import requirements, provide specific information and share Canadian food safety regulations and practices.
8.1.6 Foreign establishment verifications
On-site verification of foreign establishments that export to Canada can identify potential food safety risks before they arrive in Canada. Inspectors verify the foreign establishment's adherence to Good Manufacturing Practices / Good Agricultural Practices.
These verifications are not designed to assess the food safety system of the country and, as such, are different from foreign country assessments. Establishment verifications can be used, however, to confirm, at the establishment level, the degree that recommendations made during a foreign country assessment have been implemented.
Canada requires that some regulated articles have permits and phytosanitary and zoosanitary certification and/or registration prior to export from their country (for example, meat, eggs, potatoes, onions, apples, milk, seafood, animals, and aquatic animals and animal by-products, plants/plant products, feed). However, some regulated parties require a permission (for example, licence, certificate) prior to importing a regulated article.
8.2 At-border activities
At-border activities are fundamentally about admissibility. They allow Canada to monitor and verify that the imported commodity meets the import conditions.
8.2.1 Import admissibility requirements
The CBSA makes import decisions and the CFIA verifies import conditions before products are imported. This includes verifying the submission of a certificate, the validity of a permit and the presence of a licence or other required documentation. Most import conditions are verified via an automated system, while a small percentage (5% to 8%) are verified manually.
8.2.2 At-border inspection
At-border inspection refers to inspecting an imported commodity after it has physically entered Canada and before the CBSA clears it for entry (this includes targeted border blitzes). The CFIA inspects many live animals at the border at the time of entry, to verify that import requirements are met. This activity can be conducted by various entities including the CBSA, CFIA and third-party service providers.
8.2.3 Post-border inspection
The CBSA and CFIA conduct inspections and audits of imported goods at destination.
8.3 In-country activities
In-country controls include risk management actions taken within the importing country, and can include information gathering, inspection and sampling. These activities are similar to domestic controls and should be chosen as the appropriate activity based on the level of risk or control.
8.3.1 Inspection (system-based / regulated article)
This activity involves the system-based inspection of a regulated party and the inspection of an imported regulated article and its storage conditions after it has entered Canada and has been cleared by the CBSA.
Under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations, food safety requirements apply to businesses that import food into Canada. Importers, in most cases, require a licence to import food into Canada. They are also required to have written preventative control plans in place, to keep clear records that trace from where the food was sourced and to whom it was provided, and to develop recall and complaints procedures.
For animal and plant health, inspection activities can include quarantine and inspection of animals or plants to verify compliance with regulations and import conditions prior to release into Canada. Other moderate-risk commodities are allowed entry into specific approved premises (for example, germplasm or live aquatic animals for ornamental trade and plants for planting, living organisms and samples of commodities such as soil). The CFIA or third-party providers audit the premises to verify compliance with program requirements.
8.3.2 Notice of non-compliance
For some regulated commodities, the CFIA informs the importer, its agent, or the foreign competent authority of a non-compliance, and requests a response to prevent future non-compliance. This is used in the following situations:
- the non-compliance is not likely to result in serious or very serious harm
- the non-compliance is unintentional and easy to correct
- the CFIA believes that the letter of non-compliance will have the appropriate deterrent effect
8.3.3 Regulatory response
The CFIA has the authority to take action in response to non-compliance with the required import conditions. This includes:
- actions on regulated articles to prevent release or exposure (detain, seize, quarantine, movement restrictions, confiscate, hold, etc.)
- actions on regulated parties (removal of a permit, notice to remove/destroy/ dispose/treat, notice of violation, suspension/cancellation of a licence, order an activity to start/stop, etc.)
- forfeiture and ordered removal or disposal to an approved location
9.0 High-level import program
There are several steps that are common to any effective import program. These steps, identified below, outline the logical process in which each step builds upon the preceding one.
Step 1: set standards
- international standards
Import programs should be based on clearly defined and transparent legislation and associated regulations, which are accessible to interested parties. These should comply with international agreements, principles and standards where they exist.
Step 2: establish requirements
Requirements for imported commodities are established and transparent, and are applied consistently with the requirements established for domestically produced commodities. Examples include certification requirements, admissibility requirements, fees and processes for their collection.
Step 3: communicate standards and compliance promotion
Information regarding standards and requirements should be readily accessible along the import continuum from importers to foreign suppliers and foreign competent authorities. Regulated parties are much more likely to present compliant product for import if they can understand the import requirements.
Step 4: verify compliance to requirements so that standards are met
- set priorities based on risk
- implement activities to verify compliance, using all available tools (for example, inspection, sampling, document review)
Compliance verification activities for imported commodities are based on risk and can include activities pre-border, at-border and post-border. They should also be agile, to effectively respond to changes in risk (for example, outbreaks or non-compliance findings).
Step 5: react to non-compliance
- take control action to respond to risk (for example, seize, detain, quarantine)
- take enforcement action to respond to non-compliance (for example, removal of a permission)
- take other actions to respond to non-compliance (for example, do enhanced sampling and testing, engage with foreign competent authority, promote compliance, review standards and requirements)
A risk-based approach to responding to non-compliance is in place and enforcement action is taken when appropriate. Authorities of relevant government departments are considered. Information related to non-compliance informs future admissibility decisions.
Step 6: evaluate performance
- assess performance against outcomes
- redesign program if necessary (for example, modify/set standards, modify priorities and activities)
Doing performance evaluation and reporting on an import program assesses how well the program achieves its desired outcomes. It also provides an opportunity to recommend changes that will increase program efficiency and effectiveness.
Annex A: import program logic model
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