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Enforcement of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations

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.

The regulations include requirements related to licensing, traceability, and preventive controls. These apply to businesses that import or prepare food for export or to be sent across provincial or territorial boundaries. These requirements were phased in based on food commodity, type of activity and business size.

How is the CFIA enforcing the SFCR

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

Yes, the CFIA will take compliance and enforcement action when a business does not have a Safe Food for Canadians (SFC) licence. The CFIA conducts these activities according to its long-standing Compliance and enforcement policy to respond to non-compliance with fairness, impartiality and transparency.

Under the SFCR, most food businesses that import or prepare food for interprovincial trade or export are required to have an SFC licence, and meet preventive control and traceability requirements.

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

Import transactions for shipments of dairy, egg, fish and seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, honey and honey products, maple and maple products, meat and poultry products, and processed fruits and vegetables that are submitted through the Integrated Import Declaration (IID) are automatically rejected if importers do not declare a valid SFC licence number. If a transaction is rejected, the shipment is denied entry into Canada until the licensing error is corrected and the import declaration is re-submitted. All import requirements must be met before the shipment's import declaration can be accepted.

As of February 12, 2024, import transactions for shipments of manufactured foods that are submitted through the IID will also be automatically rejected if importers do not declare a valid SFC licence number. This may cause shipments to be delayed or held at the border.

The importer's SFC licence number must be entered correctly 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 from the time of receipt of the service request for a case to be assigned to a Case Management Officer. Depending on the complexity of the file, a service request for a new SFC licence or for a licence amendment may be assigned to a CFIA inspector and take additional time to review. Such requests require pre-issuance verifications and take an average of 70 business days to process.

Importers are required to have an SFC licence to import most foods, including most manufactured foods. As the oversight of this import requirement is being phased in for the manufactured foods sector, the CFIA is working with the Canada Border Services Agency to minimize delays at the border that might result from errors regarding the licence declaration of importers of manufactured foods.

Refer to Importing food with a valid Safe Food for Canadians licence for more information on how the CFIA automatically verifies the SFC licences of food imports and the steps importers can take to make sure they declare a valid SFC licence.

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