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Operational guideline: postal and courier import inspection


Until further notice, follow the Interim Guidance in the Application of the "OG/OO-1146-Postal and Courier Import Inspections" for Non-compliances under the Health of Animals Act (internal access only - RDIMS 12337335)

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1. Purpose

This Operational Guideline (OG) provides instruction to the inspectorate (Animal Health, Plant Health and Food) on actions to take on non-compliant products identified during postal and courier import inspections. It highlights unique situations that occur in postal/courier situations.

This document is not meant to provide specific guidance on individual business line control and enforcement options. Inspectors are to follow program specific procedures, guidelines, policies and regulations or consult with their respective Subject Matter Experts (SME) using established communication channels.

In the context of this document, for postal and courier shipments, the term "shipments" will be used through the document and refers to imported products. For the purpose of this document, the term "product" includes animals, plants or food. The qualifiers "postal" and "courier" will preface "shipments" when needed.

Regulated Party (RP) in this document refers to the importer/receiver/owner of the product.

2. Background

There have been complaints from regulated parties regarding actions taken by CFIA on imported postal products. Written guidance on postal and courier import inspections is needed to ensure consistent action upon those products across the country.

3. Authorities

The CFIA has a mandate to administer and/or enforce food-, animal- and plant-related Acts and the Regulations

4. Definitions

Bonded warehouse
A warehouse, certified by the government and guaranteed by a bonding agency, where taxable or dutiable goods may be stored, with payment of the tax or duty deferred until the goods are removed. (
Chain of custody
The movement and location of real evidence, and the history of those persons who had it in their custody, from the time it is obtained to the time it is presented in court. (Black's Law Dictionary, 8th ed.)
In bond shipment refers to an import shipment which has not been released by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and is transported from the first point of entry to a specified sufferance warehouse or another CBSA office to await CBSA release
Release of international mail
Occurs at the time Canada Post is permitted by border services officers to effect delivery of it. (Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the CBSA and the CFIA – internal access only – RDIMS 3098991))
In the context of this OG, for postal and courier shipments, the term "shipments" will be used through the document and refers to imported products (animal, plant or thing).

Sufferance warehouse

Privately owned and operated, sufferance warehouses are licensed by the CBSA for the short-term storage and examination, when required, of imported goods not yet released by the CBSA. Only imported goods for which financial security have been posted are eligible to be stored in these facilities

5. Acronyms

Canada Border Services Agency
Control and Enforcement Operational Policy
Integrated Agency Inspection Model
Memorandum of Understanding
Operational Guideline
Other Government Departments
Regulated Party
Subject Matter Expert

6. Operational guideline

Inspectors conducting any inspections must be designated under relevant authorities. Inspectors should be comfortable with all designated authorities and the interpretation and application of related policies and legislation before performing inspections and related enforcement activities.

The CFIA is responsible for the inspection and control of CFIA-regulated products imported by mail as per CFIA-CBSA Umbrella MOU Annex B – Border Activities – Commercial Stream Release Process for Food, Agricultural Inputs and Agricultural Products (internal access only – RDIMS 2532400). Additional information on CBSA roles and responsibilities can be found in the CFIA-CBSA Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) (internal access only – RDIMS 3098991).

Occupational safety and health

The CBSA policy requires that suspicious (dangerous substances or threat) shipments be opened prior to being referred to another government department for secondary inspection, to help ensure officer safety for both CBSA and the OGDs. If a suspicious shipment (for example an unknown powder on the package) is discovered by the CFIA and has not been opened, the shipment must not be opened or handled by the CFIA inspector and the CBSA should be notified immediately. Follow established Occupational Health and Safety procedures.

Postal and courier inspection process flow

Image - Postal and Courier Inspection Process Flow. Description follows.
Description for image – Postal and courier inspection process flow

Figure 1: Once a product is referred to CBSA, it is examined and triaged. If CBSA determines that the product needs a CFIA inspection, CBSA will notify the CFIA. CFIA determines if the product is compliant, non-compliant or of unknown compliant status in which case additional information is gathered to determine compliance. If a product is found to be non-compliant, in some instances, the RP may be given an opportunity to bring it into compliance. When the product is found to be non-compliant it can be confiscated (Plant Protection Act only), or the RP is notified that the product is ordered removed from Canada (including return to sender) or ordered to be disposed of/destroyed. If the RP fails to or is unable to comply with the Notice, the product is forfeited or voluntary forfeited. In these cases, the CFIA disposes or destroys the postal shipments and CBSA disposes or destroys the courier shipments.

6.1 CBSA referral to CFIA for secondary inspection

All importations must be reported to the CBSA at the point of arrival in Canada

Canada Post is responsible for presenting postal shipments to the CBSA. Border services officers review all classes of postal shipments to identify and segregate items requiring further inspection by CFIA and/or OGD.

Courier shipments arrive in Canada in-bond, and the CBSA will examine the products at the port of entry, inland at the CBSA bonded warehouse or at a CBSA licensed sufferance warehouse. The border services officer will determine whether any products are subject to controls, enforcement measures or if they require inspection by CFIA and/or OGD.

6.2 CFIA inspection

The CBSA will notify the CFIA (through direct contact (email/telephone) or by separating shipments to await a scheduled CFIA on-site inspection (for example CBSA Mail Centre) when a shipment requires CFIA inspection.

Products entering Canada must meet all regulatory requirements including, but not limited to, those for safety, nutrition, certificates, composition, product identification (for example tagging or labelling), packaging, quality, welfare, and freedom from pests and diseases, as applicable.


Consult with Subject Matter Experts (SME) for product specific requirements regarding "Personal Use" exemptions if required.

Inspections should be prioritized to ensure that shipments of live animals, plants, perishable products and expedited delivery shipments are handled first. The recommended priority is:

If a shipment is referred to the CFIA incorrectly, return the shipment to CBSA and advise that the shipment is not regulated by CFIA.

6.2.1 Determine compliance of shipments

Inspectors are to follow program specific procedures, guidelines, policies and regulations when determining compliance of imported products.

The inspection may result in three (3) possible determinations: the product is compliant, the product is not compliant or the compliance status of the product is unknown. The CBSA should be informed if there is a delay.

All CFIA notifications of compliance status in other words release recommendation or non-compliance to CBSA should be tracked according to established Area procedures. Once CBSA is notified by CFIA, CBSA will update their system. Compliant

CFIA will notify CBSA that the shipment is eligible for release.

Compliance with CFIA requirements does not mean that the shipment is released and ready for delivery. There may be other import requirements regulated by other departments and agencies.

CBSA makes the final determination as to when the shipment may be "released" into Canada. Unknown compliance status

There may be times when the compliance status of a shipment is not readily apparent.

When the compliance status of the shipment cannot be immediately determined, the inspector must gather additional information (from the RP, the SME, etc.) to complete the inspection. Non-compliant

When products (all or part of a shipment) are found to be non-compliant with CFIA legislation, the inspector will determine the appropriate regulatory control response:


The French version of the Plant Protection Act uses "confiscation" for both confiscation and forfeiture. For clarity, the term "confiscation automatique" pertains to confiscation and "confiscation" pertains to forfeiture. The French version of the Health of Animals Act translates the term "forfeiture" as "confiscation".

There may be instances when CFIA determines that the RP would be able to bring the non-compliant product into compliance. In these instances, the inspector may make a reasonable attempt to contact the RP and allow them the opportunity to bring the products into compliance (for example: missing paper work). Inspectors are reminded to refer to program specific procedures, guidelines, policies and regulations to determine if the product can be brought into compliance. If the RP is unable to bring the products into compliance or if the CFIA is unable to contact the RP, the products will have to be ordered removed, disposed of or destroyed.

When there is presence of an immediate risk (for example presence of disease, live pests, health hazard), immediate control measures (for example Seizing and detaining, ordering the destruction/disposal, confiscation) must be taken following program specific procedures, guidelines, policies and regulations. In all other instances, the CFIA has a legal responsibility to notify the RP (for example Notice to Remove, Notice to Destroy/Dispose) and give the RP an opportunity to respond. The CFIA cannot take control action unless:

The time allowed for the RP to respond to the notice should be proportional to the risk related to storing the product in consideration of the nature of the non-compliance, the nature of the perishability of the shipment along with other factors. The period should be as short as reasonably possible, while still allowing time for the RP responsible for of the shipment to take appropriate actions.

In the event that shipments must be moved from the CBSA pre-release area while awaiting RP response to a notice, inspectors should refer to the established program procedures, guidelines, policies and regulations or seek guidance from the SME for the control and movement of non-compliant products (for example seize and detain, notices of quarantine, movement certificates, etc.). CBSA will release the product to CFIA's care.

Under CFIA's legislation, where an inspector has ordered an owner or importer or the person having the possession, care or control of a non-compliant shipment to remove it from Canada or to destroy it, the owner or importer or person must have it destroyed at his or her expense.

CFIA cannot return to sender until the RP has responded to the notification and informed CFIA that they want the products returned to sender. If the product is forfeited to the Crown, it cannot be returned to the sender.

Any arrangements made by the owner for the removal or destruction should be reviewed and approved by an inspector or SME.


The RP can use "Return to Sender" by mail for a non-compliant postal shipment as a method to remove a non-compliant product from the country. CFIA can inform the RP of this possibility. CFIA must still provide the notice to remove to the RP beforehand.

Return to Sender is not an option for products that are considered "non-mailable" under the Non-mailable Matter Regulations enacted under the Canada Post Corporation Act or for those that have been forfeited to the Crown

If the RP is unable, unwilling or fails to respond to the Notice, the non-compliant product is forfeited to the Crown. The RP may also voluntarily forfeit the non-compliant product to the Crown.

The CFIA is responsible for the destruction/disposal of forfeited postal non-compliant products.

The CBSA is responsible for the disposal/destruction of forfeited courier shipments.

The chain of custody must be respected throughout this process.


The authority to refuse entry pursuant to s.42 (1) of the Plant Protection Regulations cannot be used once shipments are already in the country. Whether or not a shipment has cleared customs, it has been imported if it is on Canadian soil.

The range of control responses can be found in the tools listed in Integrated Agency Inspection Model (iAIM) Annex D: Range of Regulatory Actions (internal access only – RDIMS 4948288).

Inspectors are to consider Program specific guidelines and procedures when ordering the removal, destruction, disposal or confiscation of non-compliant products. Partially non-compliant shipment

The inspector must determine if the entire shipment is non-compliant or if only a portion of the shipment is non-compliant. Compliant products in the shipment may be allowed to enter into Canada in their original packaging. The non-compliant products of the shipment should be dealt with as all other non-compliant products; order removed from Canada, disposed/destroyed, brought into compliance and notification must be sent to the RP via registered mail or in person following program specific procedures, guidelines, policies and regulations. Separating compliant products from within a shipment containing non-compliant products is an option when there is no risk of introducing a pest, disease or contaminant. Inspectors need to ensure that non-compliant material is stored in a secure manner until disposed of or removed from Canada.

7.0 Compliance and enforcement

The Compliance and Enforcement Policy along with the accompanying program-specific enforcement guidelines provide guidance to the inspectorate regarding the most appropriate enforcement action.

8.0 References

For inquiries related to this guidance document, please use established communication channels.

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