Good Importing Practices for Food
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Effective hygiene controls are vital to preventing food borne illness, food borne injury and food spoilage. Good Importing Practices For Food (GIP) is a voluntary code of practice to be used as a guideline for Canadian importers. It is designed to encourage them to create their own hygiene controls to help improve food safety and meet regulatory requirements.
The GIP is broad in scope and nature. It deals not only with the key controls necessary to limit safety risks but also provides direction on control measures related to fraud, and on preventing deviations in standard, grade and composition of imported food.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in consultation with the food industry has up-dated the June, 1998 version of the GIP. Although some sections of the GIP may not be applicable to every importer, it is intended for broad use across the industry. Where further guidance is needed, the CFIA may develop specific codes of practice for a variety of situations.
Canadian importers are expected to be aware of the hazards involved in importing food and of the controls needed to demonstrate that their imported foods are safe and meet the applicable legislation in Canada. They are also expected to have access to records that will demonstrate that the foreign manufacturers of these imported products have the necessary controls in place. The GIP provides a sound foundation for the development of a system for ensuring food safety based on HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) principles. Although the GIP is not meant to serve as a complete HACCP plan, it is a useful reference.
The GIP: An Assessment Tool
The GIP will be used by the CFIA to assist in assessing importers on their ability to ensure imported food meets Canadian legislation. The GIP can be applied to import, storage, transportation and relabelling activities. Any importers who repackage or process imported products should also refer to the CFIA General Principles of Food Hygiene, Composition and Labelling Code of Practice for further guidance on processing controls.
The GIP is based on the Recommended International Code of Practice - General Principles of Food Hygiene adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. This is consistent with the World Trade Organization's Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement), which directs members to base their sanitary and phytosanitary measures on international standards, guidelines and recommendations. The GIP is also consistent with the CFIA Import Control Policy, since it identifies risk management criteria that are targeted to meet the specific requirements of food safety and consumer protection.
Using the GIP
Each chapter of the GIP describes specific criteria and procedures. Each sub-section includes a principle statement and when necessary, a rationale, followed by CFIA's assessment criteria.
Principle statements are outcome-based generic statements of objectives similar to those found in the Codex Code. They are intended to capture the intent of the guideline while allowing flexibility in addressing specific products or processes.
Rationales are included only when the principle statement needs explanation. They are included in several chapters (Control of Imported Product, Equipment and Records) to explain the nature of the concern or potential hazard(s) and the need for control.
Assessment criteria included in the GIP will provide information on the factors that may be considered in assessing adherence to the objectives, as expressed in the principle statements of the GIP. The CFIA considers these factors during the course of its risk-based investigation or inspection activities.
The assessment criteria are intended to guide the importer. The CFIA recognizes that there may be "alternate means" of meeting the intent of the principle statement other than those specified in the assessment criteria. These "alternate means" may include a specific process step which will be used to control an associated food safety risk or meet a regulatory requirement. Therefore, CFIA has carefully worded the document to accommodate "options or equivalents".
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