Starting next year, Canadian businesses importing or exporting food or food products will be required to obtain a license and meet various other requirements under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR), a comprehensive new food safety regime that has been in development since 2012 following enactment of the Safe Food for Canadians Act.
Comprising the biggest change in food regulation in more than a quarter century, the SFCR applies to all food, consolidates 14 different food regulations into one, strengthens food safety requirements (including traceability of food by all supply chain partners) and governs domestically produced, imported and exported food.
New Requirements for Food Businesses
According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the SFCR will make Canada’s food system “even safer by focusing on prevention and allowing for faster removal of unsafe food from the marketplace.” Specifically, the new regulations call for food industry companies to meet the following requirements:
- All food businesses that import or prepare food for export or to be sent across provincial or territorial borders must have a CFIA licence.
- Companies with gross annual sales over $100,000 must have a written (and implemented) preventative control plan to address potential food safety risks. A written plan is not required for businesses with sales below that figure, but they must still have preventive controls in place (e.g., sanitation and pest control measures).
- Companies must have systems in place for tracking and tracing their food back to their suppliers and forward to their purchasers in order to speed the process of recalling unsafe food from the marketplace.
SFCR Licensing Requirements
Food businesses involved with the following activities will be required to obtain a CFIA license under the new regulations:
- Importing food or food products;
- Manufacturing, processing, treating, preserving, grading, packaging or labelling food for export or to be sent across provincial or territorial borders;
- Exporting food (where an export certificate is requested);
- Slaughtering food animals from which meat products are derived for export or to be sent across provincial or territorial borders; or
- Storing and handling a meat product in its imported condition for inspection by the CFIA.
The federal government says the need for a CFIA license was introduced to better align Canada’s regulations with international food safety standards, thereby improving foreign market access for the country’s agri-food and agricultural sector.
Effective Date & Implementation Timelines
Published in the Canada Gazette last June, following a period of several months during which companies are expected to familiarize themselves with and prepare for the new requirements, the SCFR will come into effect on January 15, 2019.
Although some regulatory requirements will be phased in over a period of 12 to 30 months based on food commodity, type of activity and business size, others will have to be met immediately upon the SFCR coming into force. Accordingly, if they have not done so already, food businesses should review the new regulations and applicable timelines in order to develop a timely plan for implementing any changes needed to achieve SFCR compliance.
The CFIA has published an extensive list of materials to help businesses get up to speed with the new regulations, including the following:
- Toolkit for Businesses
- Licensing Interactive Tool
- Handbook for Food Businesses: Understanding SFCR
- Guidelines for Food Business Activities Requiring a Licence Under the SFCR
- Timelines for SFCR Compliance
We’re Here to Help
If you have any questions or concerns about how these changes will impact your company’s imports/exports or should you require assistance in the development of your food safety compliance plan, please do not hesitate to contact us.
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