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Interim operational procedure: Verification of maximum level of cyanide in imported apricot kernels

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1.0 Purpose

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) inspection staff on verifying regulated parties controls related to import of apricot kernels.

This document is intended to be used in conjunction with other guidance documents as referenced in Section 4.0.

The guidance outlined below should be used when conducting Standard Inspection Procedures (SIP) inspection of regulated parties importing apricot kernels. Currently, there are no known domestic producers, therefore the scope of this operational procedure is limited to importers.

2.0 Background

On July 25, 2019, Health Canada (HC) published a Notice of modification to the List of contaminants and other adulterating substances in foods to add a maximum level for cyanide in apricot kernels of ≤ 20 parts per million (ppm) total extractable cyanide in apricot kernels sold for human consumption or used as an ingredient in other foods. This maximum level is effective January 25, 2020.

As of January 25, 2020, importers of apricot kernels are responsible for ensuring that the concentration of total extractable cyanide in imported apricot kernels for human consumption meets HC's maximum level of cyanide in apricot kernels.

3.0 Authorities

The inspection powers, control actions and enforcement actions authorized by the above legislation are identified and explained in the Operational guideline – food regulatory response guidelines.

4.0 Reference documents

5.0 Definitions

Unless specified below, definitions are located in either the:

Apricot kernels: are the seeds found inside the pits (stones) of fresh apricots. Apricot kernels resemble small almonds and have an almond-like taste.

6.0 Acronyms

Acronyms are spelled out the first time they are used and are consolidated in the Food business line acronyms list.

7.0 Operational procedure

Importers of apricot kernels are not required to have a licence or Preventive Control Plan until July 15, 2020, but they are responsible for the safety of the food they import [SFCR 8, FDA4(1)] In addition to food safety requirements, these importers are subject to SFCR packaging, labelling, and organic requirements. Refer to the SFCR timelines to determine when a food business requires a licence.

7.1 Identify importer

Appendix 1 provides a list of known importers of apricot kernels. This list has been created by the Operations Intelligence and Targeting (OIT) based on previous history of importation and will be updated by the National Surveillance Targeting Unit (NSTU) on a regular basis.

The list of importers is prioritized into Tier 1 and Tier 2. The importers listed as Tier 1 are those who have imported more than one transaction of apricot kernels and have been prioritized from the highest number of transactions to the lowest. The importers listed as Tier 2 each imported one transaction and have been prioritized in descending order from most recent to least recent date of import.

Additionally inspectors may identify the importers of apricot kernels by other means such as:


These HS codes may not be specific to apricot kernels. When using ICTS.Net to identify importers, inspectors must confirm product description against the HS code to ensure the imported food is apricot kernel and not kernel of other stone fruits.

7.2 Conduct inspections

Once the importer has been identified,

If no records are available or existing records do not demonstrate compliance, conduct a sampling of the product as per section 7.2.1 for testing. Conduct a label verification as per section 7.2.2 for all importers.


The foreign analysis results submitted must come from a laboratory accredited to ISO/IEC 17025 by an accrediting body that is a signatory to the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA). The method of analysis must be on the laboratory's scope of accreditation as published by the accrediting body. The laboratory's accreditation status and whether or not the method is on their scope of accreditation can be confirmed by checking the accrediting body's website. Some lab results may contain the logo of accrediting body on the lab report. Inspectors can request the name of accrediting body from importer to verify their accreditation.

7.2.1 Sample and test

If the importer cannot demonstrate compliance (for example: by providing test results), sample and test as per the procedures in section 4.4.2 of the SIP.

Use sampling plan FS401D (Imported: Chemistry and chemical contaminants – complaints and investigations), and obtain 5 sample units of 100 grams per sample unit for imported products. If the importer has multiple lots, sample from each lot. Contact CFIA's Lab Coordination (LCD) at: to obtain the correct lab assignment and the correct method of analysis required.

When submitting the samples, enter "testing is related to verification of cyanide in apricot kernels" in the submitter comments filed.

Request the importer to hold the lots or detain the lots (if necessary) until results are available. Refer to the operational procedure – Procedure for seizure and detention, authorizing movement and disposition.

Track sampling activities using the MRRS code 17d07.

7.2.2 Label verification

Conduct a label verification to verify that labels of imported apricot kernels does not contain unpermitted claims and food meets the labelling and consumer protection requirements of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations and Food and Drug Regulations. A full label verification may not be required unless inspector stumbles upon labelling issues other than claims. Refer to the operational procedure – Food label verification.


Any claims, stated or implied, that food can treat or prevent diseases and health conditions, such as cancer or diabetes are subject to mandatory pre-market assessment under the Food and Drugs Act [FDA 3(2)]. Health Canada has not reviewed any such claims for apricot kernels sold as a food.

Also, "Vitamin B17" is not a recognized vitamin under the FDR. Therefore, any food, including apricot kernels, making a statement or claim relating to its "Vitamin B17" content would be considered to be in violation of the FDR.


Now that the ML for cyanide is in effect, Health Canada's consumer advice (no more than 3 kernels/day (adults), should not consume (children)), is no longer applicable or required for safety purposes. The presence of such advice on a label would not pose a health concern or considered a non-compliance, however, labels containing Health Canada's consumption advice would be considered inaccurate and out-of-date. Inspectors can advise the importer accordingly.

Track label verification activities using MRRS code 17a05 – Manufactured food inspections.

7.2.3 Recording inspection results

Follow the directions in Table 1 – recording inspection results.

When inspection of an importer is completed, enter "yes" in the "inspection completed" column of the "List of know importers of apricot kernels" in Appendix 1. NSTU will monitor the list of known importers and will update once all inspections are completed.

Table 1 – Recording inspection results
If Then
The business has a licence to import Enter the inspections results in the Digital Service Delivery Platform (DSDP). Refer to Appendix IV of the SIP – Recording inspection information in the Digital Service Delivery Platform (DSDP).
The business has a licence to import but their licence is not valid for the type of activity or commodity Encourage the importer to verify the accuracy of their profile in My CFIA. Once the importer has amended their profile, enter the inspection results in the DSDP.

The business does not have a licence

Encourage the client to create a profile and apply for a licence in My CFIA prior to the Timelines for the coming-into-force of the SFCR for this sector, and then record the inspection results in the DSDP.
The business does not have a licence and does not wish to obtain a licence until July 15, 2020

Refer to the standard operating procedure (SOP) titled "Search for a party profile in DSDP – (internal access only – RDIMS 12606973)".

If the importer does not have a profile in DSDP, obtain mandatory information referenced in the SOP and request addition of a party profile for the importer in the DSDP.

Once the profile is created, enter the inspection data in the importer's profile in the DSDP.

7.3 Regulatory response to non-compliance

All apricot kernels that do not meet the maximum level of ≤ 20 ppm for total extractable cyanide cannot be sold for human consumption or used as an ingredient in other foods after January 25, 2020.

Table 2 – Compliance determination
If Then
Total extractable cyanide in the sample does not exceed 20 ppm (it is ≤ 20 ppm) Release the lot in question for sale and notify the importer
Total extractable cyanide in the sample exceeds 20 ppm Refer to the operational procedure – Ordering removal or destruction of unlawful imports to issue an order of removal or destruction (if removal is not possible).
The importer is proposing to further process the lot in order for it to be brought into compliance rather than removal or destruction Table Note 1.

Follow the procedures in the operational guideline – Inspection of evidence showing that control measures are effective to determine if the proposed processing is effective to bring the product to compliance.

Consult with an Area Operational Specialist or Operational Guidance and Expertise (OGE) if required to determine if purposed control measures are considered effective.

Follow the operational procedure – Ordering removal or destruction of unlawful imports to cancel the notice if the conditions of SFCA 32(5) (a) to (d) are met.

A non-compliance to labelling or food safety requirements of the SFCA/SFCR, FDA/FDR is identified

Detain the non-compliant lots as per operational procedure – Procedure for seizure and detention, authorizing movement and disposition.

Follow the procedures in the Operational guideline – Food regulatory response guidelines to determine appropriate disposition option and enforcement actions (if required).

Refer to Guidelines on categorizing labelling and advertising non-compliance and timeframes for correction (internal access only – RDIMS 9912657).

Non-compliant products are in distribution

Refer to Food incidence response process for details on response to non-compliant products at distribution.

Importer to recall the non-compliant product.

Table Note

Table Note 1

Currently CFIA is not aware of a further processing that would reduce or eliminate the chemical contaminants such as Cyanide in food.

Return to table note 1  referrer

8.0 Appendices

For general inquiries related to this Operational Guidance Document, please follow established communication channels, including submitting an electronic Request for Action Form (e-RAF).

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