New Safety Requirements on the Way for Canadian Food Importers

Posted: Friday, November 9, 2018 by Global Food Safety Resource

By Tammy Switucha

Canada is recognized as having one of the strongest food safety systems in the world. But the speed, volume and complexity of food production have produced new risks and challenges. Significant changes in production and distribution environments have resulted in elaborate and extensive global supply chains that support increased consumer demand for diverse, innovative choices.

Every day, thousands of metric tons of food and beverages arrive in Canada by sea, land and air. The volume of fresh fruits, vegetables and processed foods being imported into Canada has approximately doubled, from $11.7 billion in 2006 to $22.8 billion in 2015.

New Safety Requirements for Canadian Food Importers

The case for change is compelling. That’s why the Government of Canada introduced the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations, which replaced 14 sets of regulations in order to modernize Canada’s food safety system by focusing on prevention through more rigorous risk management and an increased focus on traceability.

The new regulations will come into force on January 15, 2019 and will require that food imported into Canada be prepared with the same level of food safety controls as food prepared in Canada.

Food Safety in Canada
“As a result, Canadians can have more confidence that food imported into Canada is safe to eat,” says Lyzette Lamondin, the Executive Director of Food Safety and Consumer Protection at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

There are benefits for businesses, too. “Strong, flexible regulations that focus on prevention will go a long way in helping businesses uphold their reputation, keep customers healthy and loyal, and avoid costly recalls,” Lamondin adds.

Potential Risks to Food Safety
Canadian businesses importing food into Canada will be required to have licences. They will also need to identify in their preventive control plans all potential risks to food safety, and explain how their international suppliers will be taking steps to control them. Canadian importers will have to:

• understand the supply chain for the product they are importing
• understand how their foreign supplier is addressing all hazards associated with the food
• know if the food will need further processing or labelling after it arrives in Canada, so it will meet Canadian requirements
• demonstrate that the food is manufactured, prepared, stored, packaged and labelled under conditions that provide at least the same level of protection as provided by the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations.

In addition, Canadian importers will also need to maintain procedures for handling and investigating complaints and recalls for food they import. The new requirements also apply to food that is imported for the purpose of exporting at a later date. Canadian businesses will need to enrol in My CFIA in order to apply for a licence.

The CFIA’s interactive tools and timelines can help businesses determine how the new requirements apply to them.

The CFIA also has a toolkit for businesses which includes multilingual fact sheets, and a step-by-step guide for importers.


About the Author
This article is provided by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The CFIA is the science-based federal government agency dedicated to safeguarding food, animals and plants.

Tammy Switucha is the Senior Director of Domestic Food Safety with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. She has worked in the Canadian Federal Government for over 25 years and has been with the CFIA for the past 11 years. She has held various executive positions at the CFIA, including Director of both International Relations and Strategic Policy. She is currently leading the Agency’s efforts to modernize its regulatory framework for food safety – the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations – which have been under development since 2013. This work also involves the development of guidance material for industry stakeholders to assist with readiness for compliance with the regulations.

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