The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)’s Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) come into force on January 15, 2019. Under the SFCR, new requirements will apply to businesses and individuals importing food, including non-alcoholic beverages into Canada.

Once the SFCR is fully in force, commercial importers will require a SFC licence, in order to import food, including non-alcoholic beverages into Canada. Some exemptions apply as noted below.

The SFC licence requirement will be implemented in three phases as outlined below:

  • Phase 1, January 15, 2019: The import of meat, fish, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables, processed fruits and vegetables, dairy, maple and honey for commercial sale will require a SFC licence; however, the current licences/registrations listed below will continue to be accepted until they expire. Upon expiry, importers of these foods will require a SFC licence.
    • Licence to operate a registered meat establishment
    • Quality Management Program for Importers (QMPI) fish licence
    • Fish import licence (basic)
    • Cheese import licence
    • Dairy establishment registration
    • Registered Produce Warehouses (RPW) establishment registration
    • Honey establishment registration
    • Maple establishment registration
    • Processed products establishment registration
  • Phase 2, January 15, 2020: A SFC licence will be required for imports of meat, fish, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables, processed fruits and vegetables, dairy, maple and honey for commercial sale, unless otherwise exempted.
  • Phase 3, July 15, 2020: A SFC licence will be required for all commercial food and beverage imports, unless otherwise exempted.

SFC licences can be obtained from the CFIA. To find out if a licence is needed and how to apply for one, go to the CFIA’s licencing interactive tool. CFIA encourages importers requiring a SFC licence to submit their applications as soon as possible.

The SCFR identifies the following as general exemptions to licencing requirements:

  • food that is imported as part of the personal effects of an immigrant;
  • food that is carried on any conveyance and is intended for the crew or passengers;
  • food that is intended and used for analysis, evaluation, research, or a trade show provided that the food is part of a shipment that weighs 100 kg or less or, in the case of eggs, is part of a shipment of five or fewer cases;
  • food that is not intended or sold for human consumption;
  • food that is imported from the United States onto the Akwesasne Reserve by a permanent resident of the Reserve for their use;
  • food that is imported in bond (in transit) for use by crew or passengers of a cruise ship or military ship in Canada;
  • transporting a food commodity, if that is the sole activity of a person.

Even if exempted from the SFCR requirements, food and beverage imports remain subject to CFIA requirements under the Health of Animals Act, Plant Protection Act and their associated regulations, as well as all other government department legislation.

CFIA advises importers to continue to consult the CFIA’s Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) for food import requirements.

For paper transactions, importers should consult AIRS and, for foods that are “Refer to CFIA – NISC” complete a CFIA 5272, Request for Documentation Review (PDF) form and fax it to the CFIA’s National Import Service Centre (NISC). The NISC will conduct a documentation review and return a recommendation by stamping the CFIA 5272. The stamped 5272 must be presented to the Canada Border Services Agency as part of the release request.