Guide to Importing Food Products Commercially
Section B - Government Agencies and Departments Responsible for Imported Food

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While federal responsibility for food inspection resides primarily with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, other departments play a role in the regulation of the importation of food. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, while not directly involved in the inspection of goods, controls the importation of certain agricultural products through the application of the Export and Import Permits Act and tariff rate quotas (TRQs).

Some departments and agencies involved in the inspection of food, Canada Border Services Agency for example, aid the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in enforcing Canadian food regulations, while others have wider mandates that include food. An example of the latter is Environment Canada, which administers the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora for all products, including food products when from species of animals and plants listed under this convention.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency provides all federal inspection services related to food safety, economic fraud, trade-related requirements, animal and plant disease and pest programs. This consolidation of responsibilities into a single agency is designed to enhance food safety systems by integrating the delivery of inspection and quarantine services that had previously been provided by other departments.

All those involved in the production of food or in the import or export of food, live animals or plants are now able to deal with a single agency for inspection and quarantine services.

To meet its mandate, the CFIA administers and/or enforces the following acts:

  • Food and Drugs ActFootnote *
  • Canada Agricultural Products Act
  • Meat Inspection Act
  • Fish Inspection Act
  • Consumer Packaging and Labelling ActFootnote *
  • Plant Protection Act
  • Health of Animals Act
  • Administrative Monetary Penalties Act
  • Seeds Act
  • Feeds Act
  • Fertilizers Act
  • Canadian Food Inspection Act
  • Plant Breeders' Rights Act

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency provides food labelling information at offices located across the country.

Canada Border Services Agency

Canada Border Services Agency assists other government departments in the administration and enforcement of their legislation as it applies to imported products. The Customs Act provides the legislative authority for Customs inspectors to detain goods that may be in contravention of the Customs Act, or any other act or regulation governing the import or export of goods.

Customs inspectors:

  • review import documentation, ensuring that all required permits, certificates and licences (including those for other government departments) are presented before the goods are released; and
  • perform examinations of food shipments to verify that the information/documents being presented at the time of release are relevant to the goods.

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

The Trade Controls and Technical Barriers Bureau of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development is responsible for the issuance of permits for goods on the Import Control List and Export Control List under the authority of the Export and Import Permits Act. The following agricultural products are or will be subject to controls:

Agricultural Products Subject to Import Controls

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Broiler Hatching Eggs and Chicks
  • Shell Eggs and Egg Products
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Margarine
  • Ice Cream, Yogurt
  • Other Dairy Products
  • Barley and Barley Products
  • Wheat and Wheat Products
  • Beef and Veal from Non-North American Free Trade Agreement countries

Environment Canada

Canada is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. This Convention, commonly known as CITES, is an international agreement through which more than 157 countries exercise control over the import, export and in-transit movement of various plant and animal species listed in the Convention. Live species and their derivatives, parts and products are controlled through an international permit system, which varies depending on how endangered each species is.

In Canada, CITES is administered by the Canadian Wildlife Service of Environment Canada. Assisting in the implementation of the CITES restrictions are the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Canada Border Services Agency, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

The Fish Health Protection Regulations (FHPR) apply only to salmonid species (e.g., salmon, trout, and whitefish) belonging to the genera listed in Schedule I of the FHPR. The Regulations are designed to minimize the risk of spread of infectious diseases through inspection of wild and cultured fish stocks and to control the movement of infected fish between provinces/territories. They apply to live and uneviscerated dead cultured fish, eggs (including fertilized eggs or gametes) of cultured and wild fish and products of dead, uneviscerated cultured fish destined to move across provincial or territorial boundaries within Canada.

Health Canada

Although Health Canada is no longer directly involved in the inspection of food, it has responsibility for setting national health and safety policy with respect to food. Among other activities, the Health Products and Food Branch of Health Canada:

  • administers the food safety provisions of the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations
  • develops regulations and guidelines for food safety;
  • sets national standards for food safety and nutritional content of food;
  • conducts health risk assessments and evaluations concerning physical, chemical and microbial contaminants, natural toxicants, food additives, etc.;
  • provides the Canadian Food Inspection Agency with guidance to determine the health risk of a situation when no guidelines exist;
  • conducts safety assessments on novel and genetically modified food;
  • approves the use of food additives;
  • approves the use of veterinary drugs on food producing animals and sets residue tolerances; and
  • serves as national authority for food safety issues at the international level in the development of international standards, guidelines, recommendations, etc. (e.g. WHO, FAO, CODEX).

The Pest Management Regulatory Agency of Health Canada sets maximum residue limits for pesticides on foods for sale in Canada.

Measurement Canada

Measurement Canada, an agency of Industry Canada, enforces the Weights and Measures Act, which establishes net quantity requirements for commodities sold on the basis of measure. The Weights and Measures Act applies to foods destined for commercial or industrial enterprises or institutions, products sold in bulk and clerk-served products at retail.

The legislation does not apply to commodities subject to net quantity requirements set out in other federal legislation. Consequently, it does not apply to goods packaged for direct sale to the consumer as these are covered by the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, the food provisions of which are enforced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Provincial and Territorial Governments

Provincial and territorial governments have jurisdiction over public health issues, which includes food prepared, sold and manufactured within their borders. Provincial and municipal inspection programs have focussed on the food service industry (including restaurants and caterers), and the food retail industry (including grocery stores, butcher shops and bakeries). Some provinces and territories have additional requirements for certain commodities such as dairy products, margarine, bottled water, and maple syrup.

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