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Enforcement of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations

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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has a mandate to enforce Canada's food legislation, including the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) which introduced new requirements for food businesses as of January 15, 2019.

How is CFIA enforcing the SFCR?

CFIA's enforcement approach to the SFCR balances the need to protect Canada's food safety system while supporting food businesses in complying with the regulations.

The CFIA has been informing food businesses about where to find information to help them comply with the SFCR. Businesses also have continuous access to the Toolkit for food businesses and virtual assistant tool featuring plain-language resources to help determine which requirements apply to them and how to comply with them.

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

Is CFIA taking enforcement action against businesses if they don't have a Safe Food for Canadians licence?

Businesses in the following sectors that import or prepare food for interprovincial trade or export are required to have a Safe Food for Canadians (SFC) licence, and meet preventive control and traceability requirements: meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, processed egg products, fresh fruits or vegetables, processed fruit or vegetable products, honey and maple products.

For the manufactured food sector, new SFCR requirements relating to licensing, preventive controls and traceability began to apply as of July 15, 2020. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CFIA announced that it will not prioritize compliance activities related to these requirements for this sector until further notice.

In the event of a food safety concern, the CFIA will continue to take action to protect consumers. This may include recalling, seizing or detaining food products and using other enforcement and control measures.

What does this mean for shipments of imported food at the border?

As of March 15, 2021, import transactions for shipments of meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, processed egg products, fresh fruits or vegetables, processed fruit or vegetable products, honey and maple products will be rejected if importers do not declare a valid SFC licence number. This may cause shipments to be delayed or held at the border.

The licence number has to be entered properly on import documents, where indicated, exactly as it was issued by the CFIA.

Importers must obtain their SFC licence before presenting their shipment at the border. They will not be able to obtain a licence at the border. A licence application or amendment may take up to 15 business days to process, and can take longer if a pre-licence inspection is required.

While the CFIA is not prioritizing compliance activities related to the licensing requirement for the import of foods from the manufactured food sector, shipments may be delayed or held at the border for other reasons.

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