T-4- 120 – Regulation of compost under the Fertilizers Act and Regulations
The purpose of this document is to outline the regulatory requirements for compost under the Fertilizers Act and regulations that must be met in order to legally sell or import compost in Canada. This document is also designed to assist compost producers, facility operators, importers, and retailers in meeting the regulatory requirements prescribed by the various applicable Acts administered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
2. Regulation of composts
Compost (designated as to kind) – Solid mature product resulting from composting (a managed bio-oxidation process that includes a thermophilic phase) of a solid heterogeneous organic substrate.
Compost may be imported or sold in Canada as either a fertilizer (when represented as a source of essential plant nutrients) or as a supplement (any substance or mixture of substances, other than a fertilizer, that is manufactured, sold or represented for use in the improvement of the physical condition of soils or to aid plant growth or crop yields).
Compost products that meet the compositional criteria specified in the List of Primary Fertilizer and Supplement Materials (List of Materials) are exempt from registration under the Fertilizers Act. If ingredients are added to the compost product after the composting process is complete, the final product no longer meets the definition of "compost". The regulatory requirements for such products will depend on the final product's composition and label claims.
Compost teas (liquid products derived from compost) do not meet the definition (compositional criteria) for compost as specified on the List of Materials, and therefore are not composts and are not exempt from registration as composts.
Mixtures containing compost are exempt from registration IF:
all other active ingredients in the mixture are either registered for the proposed use of the mixture (for example, target crop, use pattern, application rate, frequency and method are consistent) or are exempt from registration (for example, materials on the List of Materials).
- if the directions for use of a registered active ingredient are not consistent with the proposed use of the mixture, the final mixture must be registered; or
- if the mixture contains an active ingredient that requires registration but is not registered, then the mixture requires registration.
3. Requirements under the Fertilizers Regulations
To be identified in the market as a "compost", a product must meet the "compost" definition in the List of Materials. A product cannot have compost in its name if it does not contain compost. Compost products must meet the safety standards outlined in Trade Memorandum T-4-93 with respect to ingredients and contaminants of concern. To meet the definition of a supplement under the Fertilizers Act, the application rate of a compost product must be sufficient to either improve the physical condition of the soil or aid plant growth and crop yield. Reducing the application rate of a compost product in order to meet contaminant-loading thresholds is not an acceptable corrective action if it would result in the compost being applied at a rate that does not measurably improve the physical condition of the soil.
T-4-93 also outlines requirements for fertilizers and supplements containing certain animal proteins known as prohibited material. As per the Fertilizers Regulations and the Health of Animals Regulations, if one or more feed stocks in a compost is a prohibited material, the compost is subject to the warning statements, recall and record keeping requirements (see Health of Animals Regulations section below).
Please note: composted wastes that contain prohibited material, including poultry manures of animals that were fed prohibited material, are considered prohibited material (due to residual feed mixed with the bedding or wood chips) and are subject to the same regulatory requirements.
In addition to the standards outlined in T-4-93, composts should not contain sharp objects, such as glass or metal, in a size and shape that can cause injury.
Labelling requirements for all fertilizers and supplements (including composts) are outlined in Trade Memorandum T-4-130 – Labeling requirements for fertilizers and supplements. Requirements vary depending on whether a given compost product is represented as a Fertilizer (for example, requires a grade) or a supplement (may only guarantee organic matter content).
4.2 Designation as to kind
Compost products imported or sold in Canada must be designated as to kind. This means that the input materials must be identified by category (at a minimum). The following categories may be used, though a product proponent may chose to provide more detail on the source material.
- Post consumer source-separated organics
- Leaf & Yard residues
- Municipal Biosolids
- Fishery & Aquaculture residues
- Forestry residues
- Livestock & Agrifood residues
4.3 Precautionary statements
As per the Fertilizers Regulations a label of a fertilizer or supplement or mixture thereof require a statement setting out any precaution that is necessary to mitigate a risk of harm to human, animal or plant health or the environment (except pests). This includes allergenicity statements on compost products that contain any of the priority allergens identified by Health Canada.
If any person requests a document in English or French that lists the ingredients that are contained in a fertilizer or supplement that present a risk of harm to the health of any human or animal and that do not appear on the label, the document shall be provided by:
the person who packaged the fertilizer or supplement or caused it to be packaged;
- in the case of an imported fertilizer or supplement, the person who imported it.
5. Import and export
To determine the appropriate import requirements, consult the Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) prior to importation. Additional information may be obtained directly from your local CFIA office.
The export of compost is not regulated under the Fertilizers Act and regulations. While not a requirement for export, the CFIA does issue export certificates under the Fertilizers Act upon request. For details on requirements and how to apply, please refer to T-4-124: Export certificates under the Fertilizers Act.
Additional acts and regulations that may apply to the import and/or export of compost products can be found below.
6. Other CFIA Acts and Regulations that apply to compost products
6.1 Health of Animals Act
6.1.1 Import and export requirements
Fertilizers and supplements containing products of a rendering plant require an import permit under the Health of Animals Act. In order to be sold in Canada the products must conform to the regulations outlined above with respect to labelling, recall, and record keeping procedures. Additional information may be obtained directly from the national or regional Animal Health import/export office.
The Health of Animals Regulations require that products containing material from a rendering plant (including rendered products generated at fish processing facilities) be certified by the CFIA prior to export. For further guidance Please contact the national or regional Animal Health Import/Export Office.
6.1.2 Enhanced feed ban
Specific Risk Materials mean: the skull, brain, trigeminal ganglia (nerves attached to the brain), eyes, tonsils, spinal cord and dorsal root ganglia (nerves attached to the spinal cord) of cattle aged 30 months or older; and the distal ileum (portion of the small intestine) of cattle of all ages.
Certain cattle tissues known as specified risk materials (SRM) are capable of transmitting bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). To provide animal health protection, SRM was banned from animal feeds, pet foods and fertilizers (Enhanced Feed Ban).
Compost (fertilizers and supplements) containing any form of SRM (for example, composted whole cattle deadstock) is considered SRM itself, and may not be sold as a fertilizer or supplement. Composting is recognized as a means for volume reduction of SRM, but has not been accepted as an inactivation method. For this reason compost containing SRM cannot be sold, but in some instances may be used with restrictions under permit issued under the Health of Animals Act and regulations.
In addition, there are requirements for fertilizers and supplements containing certain animal proteins known as prohibited material. As per the Fertilizers Regulations and the Health of Animals Regulations, if one or more feed stocks in a compost is a prohibited material, the compost is subject to the warning statements, recall and record keeping requirements described in the documents linked below.
Prohibited material means anything that is, or that contains any, protein that originated from a mammal, other than:
- a porcine or equine
- milk or products of milk
- gelatin derived exclusively from hides or skins or products of gelatin derived exclusively from hides or skins
- blood or products of blood or
- rendered fats, derived from ruminants, that contain no more than 0.15% insoluble impurities or their products
Similarly composted wastes including poultry manures of animals that were fed prohibited material are considered prohibited material (due to residual feed mixed with the bedding or wood chips) and are subject to the same regulatory requirements. Conversely, compost that contains food grade animal protein in the form of restaurant waste, grocery store waste, or household organic collection waste is not subject to the warning statements, recall and record keeping requirements.
Sellers of fertilizers or supplements which contain prohibited material as a single ingredient, or in a mixture, in weights equal to or less than 25 kg, are also exempt from the requirement to include the name and address of the person to whom the fertilizer or supplement is sold at the final point of sale. The seller will still be required to keep the information regarding the name of the products sold at their place of business as well as a description of the products and the lot numbers.
Please see the CFIA Animal Health webpage or contact a local office of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for further information.
For more information please consult:
- Synopsis of SRM Composting Requirements
- Specified Risk Materials – Requirements for Fertilizers and Supplements
- CFIA Position on the Domestic Use of Composted SRM
6.2 Plant Protection Act
The CFIA, under the Plant Protection Act, regulates the import and domestic movement of plants and plant parts, as well as soil and related matter from all countries to prevent the entry and spread of regulated plant pests. The CFIA regulates the import and domestic movement of compost. Import and domestic movement requirements are determined based on the individual components of the compost and any treatment that the compost has undergone. Compost must be free of regulated plant pests and soil.
Please see the CFIA Horticulture webpage or contact a the Horticulture section at email@example.com, for more information.
Other helpful sources of information:
- Import Procedures
- List of Pests Regulated by Canada
- Import Requirements for Potentially Injurious Organisms (Other than Plants) to Prevent the Importation of Plant Pests in Canada
- Soil and soil-related matter
- Automated Import Reference System (AIRS)
- Plant Protection Policy Directives
7. Organic labelling
Under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR), any food, seed, or animal feed that is labelled organic is regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
Commodities such as cannabis plants and their cultivation, cosmetics, fertilizers and supplements, pet food, and natural health products are outside the scope of the Canada Organic Regime (COR). COR is an organic certification system outlined in Part 13 Organic Products of the SFCR, overseen by the CFIA. Products that are excluded from the scope cannot be certified under the COR, therefore, cannot bear the Canada Organic Logo.
Compliance with Part 13 Organic Products of the SFCR is required if the product:
- has an organic claim on the label and is sold between provinces or territories or imported; or
- displays the Canada Organic Logo on the label and is sold within or outside of Canada.
A product can be considered organic if it has been certified by a CFIA accredited certification bodies (CBs) to meet the Canadian Organic Standards. Part 13 Organic Products of the SFCR do not apply to fertilizers and supplements available on the Canadian marketplace.
There are CBs that have their own internal program in place to approve the compliance of various inputs for use in an organic system. Their Input Approval Program allows input manufacturers to have their products vetted for compliance. The input manufacturer receives an Input Approval document that can be provided to their clientele upon purchase of the product in question.
However, as outlined in Part 13 Organic Products of the SFCR, CBs must verify that all inputs used in the production and processing of organic products are those set out in, and used in the manner described in reference document Organic Production Systems: Permitted substances lists (CAN/CGSB-32.311). This includes the verification of inputs or products bearing claims such as, but not limited to: "approved" or "permitted for use in organic agriculture" on fertilizer, supplement or compost labels.
Please see the CFIA Organic Product Page or contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for further information.
8. Contact information
Fertilizer Safety Section
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
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