The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) was finalized in June 2018 with phase one coming into force on January 15, 2020 for fresh produce companies, and phase two on July 15th for the manufacturing sector.  The goal of the new rules is to capture all aspects of food safety, from production to the supply chain into a single set of regulations. The rules also put the emphasis on activity rather than what is produced through Licensing, Preventive Controls, Traceability, Importing, and Exporting.

Under the new rules, July 15, 2020 was also the deadline for the businesses in the manufactured food sector to apply for an Import License. Manufactured foods include confectionary, snack foods, beverages, coffee, teas, oils, dried herbs and spices, nuts and seeds and processed grain-based foods such as baked goods, cereals, and pasta, among others. The new rules also apply to food businesses that were not previously registered with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)

What does the new rules mean for importers?

Importers need to ensure that the foods and ingredients that they import are safe to consume and meet Canadian requirements. Imported foods must be prepared with the same level of food safety controls as foods prepared in Canada. Therefore, if you are importing foods into Canada, you must get your license before presenting your shipment at the border as you will not be able to get a license at the border.

The new licensing system:

  • provides a consistent and universal means to identify who is involved in the production and supply of food in Canada, a key activity in maintaining food safety
  • recognizes that not all food businesses are alike, and allows them to structure their licences to fit their unique needs
  • aligns Canada's model with internationally accepted best practices for food safety and globally recognized Codex Alimentarius food standards
  • demonstrates the CFIA's commitment to service and digital-first tools

Meeting the licensing requirements

To get a license, you will need to meet Preventive Control and Traceability/Recall requirements specified under the SFCR. Preventive controls help to prevent food safety hazards and reduce the likelihood of contaminated food entering the market. This requirement applies both to foods prepared in Canada (including foods for export) and imported foods.

Most businesses will need to document their preventive controls in a written Preventive Control Plan (PCP). The PCP details how your business identifies and controls food safety hazards.  The CFIA does not pre-approve preventive controls; however, it verifies that businesses have documented evidence that their control measures are effective. It is the responsibility of business owners to ensure that they are meeting the requirements of the SFCR.

Traceability is the ability to track the movement of a food product, one step forward to whom the product was sold to and one step back to the supplier. It is important that the traceability records are maintained to allow businesses to track food products in the event of a food safety investigation or food recall to protect consumers and potentially minimize economic losses.

Impact of Covid-19 on SFCR

In April 2020, the CFIA announced until further notice that they will not prioritize compliance activities associated with the July 15, 2020 SFCR rules for the manufactured food sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic. CFIA activities and priorities regarding industry compliance  remain the same. As well, any changes to the CFIA's prioritization of compliance activities will be announced with adequate lead time once the situation allows. Nevertheless, we encourage businesses to apply for a licence under the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and prepare their Preventive Control Plan (PCP).

Getting Support

If you are a food business that requires help with complying with the new SFCR, our food safety/PCP consultants are ready to assist you in the preparation of a PCP to demonstrate how hazards and risks associated with your food products are addressed, and obtain licences from the CFIA, which includes the CFIA import licence.

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