Today, most Canadian food importers and manufacturers don’t consider licensing requirements and other prescriptive regulations with respect to how they conduct their business operations; however, that is about to change. Back in 2012, the Government of Canada passed its Safe Food for Canadians Act (SC 2012, c 24), which set the scene for a sweeping licensing regime. As of January 2017, industry can now see the potential impact of that Act.

On January 21, 2017, the Government of Canada published the second version of its proposed Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (“SFCR”) in Canada Gazette Part I. The proposed regulations were created under authority of the Safe Food for Canadians Act. Publication of the SFCR was accompanied by the start of a 90 day public consultation period.

The SFCR will establish a set of regulations to govern all food sectors in Canada by consolidating 13 existing regulations and the food labelling provisions of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act. The end result is that, once implemented, all food subject to CFIA oversight (i.e. federally registered sectors, and food that is destined for import, export or interprovincial trade) will be regulated under the Safe Food for Canadians Act and the Food and Drugs Act.

These regulations will have a direct impact throughout the food supply chain, and will affect the way many manufacturers and importers conduct business in Canada. Of significance is that under these proposed regulations, previously non-federally registered food sectors will be subject to the licensing regime and CFIA oversight. Those importers without a place of business in Canada would still be eligible for a licence to import, provided they have a fixed place of business in a state with a food safety regime that provides equivalent protections to Canada’s. The proposed timelines for implementation of licensing requirements range from immediate licensing requirements for sectors such as meat, eggs and other previously federally registered sectors to up to three years for other sectors.

Also noteworthy, a significant number of documents will be incorporated by reference into these regulations. This may present a challenge for previously unregistered sectors, which may be unfamiliar with this sort of regulatory framework, because there will not be a single source document of the relevant regulatory requirements under the SFCR.

Elements covered by the SFCR include:

  • Licensing requirements for the import, export and interprovincial trade of food
  • Traceability requirements
  • Reporting requirements and timelines
  • Preventative controls and a preventative control plan
  • Export Certificate request process
  • Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corporation (“DRC”) membership requirements for buyers and sellers or fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Changes to the imported meat inspection requirements
  • Establishment of standards for foreign systems of inspection for meat and shellfish
  • Prescribed container sizes and weights for certain food products
  • Labelling regulations and standards of identity
  • Grade requirements for certain foods
  • Expansion of organic certification to service providers and additional products