The Safe Food for Canadians Act (“SFCA”) came into full force on January 15, 2019 when the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (“SFCR”) were adopted.  The SFCA and SFCR apply with few exceptions to all food commodities and create a framework of standards, licensing and other requirements established to ensure that food manufactured and sold in Canada is safe.

Those standards and requirements apply to all persons who import export, manufacture, process, treat, preserve, grade, package, or label food.

Some requirements will be phased in over 12-30 months, while others must be met immediately upon coming into force of the SFCR, which occurred on January 15, 2019.

Failure to comply can result in seizure of offending food products and the imposition of stiff penalties ranging from fines of $250,000 – $5,000,000 and/or imprisonment of 6 months – 5 years for each offence.  Any director or officer or agent of the offending organization, who authorizes, assents to, or acquiesces or participates in the commission of the offence also may be liable on conviction to these penalties.  There are due diligence defenses for certain of the offences.

FOR FOOD IMPORTERS:  The SFCR include several requirements that, with few exceptions, must be met by those who want to import food into Canada, including:

  1. Most Importers are required to have a “Fixed Place of Business in Canada”: On and after January 15, 2019, any person that imports food into Canada (that is neither a meat nor shellfish product) must have either: (a) a fixed place of business in Canada from which they carry on business related to the food; or (b) a fixed place of business in a country that the CFIA has recognized as having a food safety system that provides at least the same level of protection as that found in the SFCA and the SFCR;
  2. A food import license is required: The SFCA and the SFCR prohibit any person from importing food into Canada unless that person holds a license issued in accordance with the SFCR. While there are a few exceptions, this requirement applies to most food imports.  For some foods (e.g. meat, fish, dairy, eggs,), a license was required for imports made on and after January 15, 2019.   For certain other foods, the license is not required until July 2020.  It is important to review the requirements set out in the SFCR to confirm the timing;
  3. Importers must satisfy Preventive Controls (including a Complaint and Recall Procedure) requirement and may be required to create a Preventive Controls Plan: Food importers are required to satisfy certain preventive control requirements described by the SFCR. Based on internationally accepted food safety principles, the SFCR preventive control requirements aim to ensure that imported food is safe, fit for human consumption and meets Canadian consumer protection requirements. Importers will need to review and assess the imported food product, as well as processes in place at storage/logistics providers and foreign supplier(s) to ensure that these requirements are met.  For certain types of foods, the requirements apply immediately.  For certain other foods, these requirements will apply in January 2020, July 2020 or July 2021, depending on the food and the size of the business. Note as well that most importers with gross food sales that exceed $100,000, also will be required to generate and maintain a document (the Preventive Control Plan) that details their compliance with the Preventive control requirements;
  4. Traceability: Importers are required to trace imported products – One step forward to your customer and one step back to your supplier:  Importers are required to maintain records in respect of imported food products that trace and record the person/entity from which they were purchased and the person to whom they were sold. There are certain exceptions that may apply when the imported food is sold at retail.  This requirement is also being transitioned, applying January 15, 2019 to certain food imports and July 2020 for others, depending on the food.

Each food importer must meet these, and other requirements set out in the SFCR.  If your organization imports or plans to import food into Canada, it is important that you undertake a careful review of what is required and when.

Should you have questions or require any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact Heather Innes at or 416-350-1234.