Questions and Answers
Proposed Imported Food Sector Product Regulations

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is proposing new regulations under the Canada Agricultural Products Act (CAPA) called the Imported Food Sector Product Regulations. The proposed regulations are designed to enhance food safety controls for foods imported into Canada.

This initiative is one component of the CFIA's ongoing efforts to strengthen and modernize Canada's food safety system and is a key deliverable of the Safe Food for Canadians Action Plan.

Why do we need new regulations for the imported food sector?

Canada imports food from more than 190 countries and many of our domestic food products are made from imported ingredients. While the existing food safety system protects Canadians well, these improvements would continue the high level of food safety that Canadians rely on in an increasingly complex global marketplace.

The proposed Imported Food Sector Product Regulations are intended to bring consistency across the imported food sector, so that everyone has the same capacity to maintain food safety oversight.

The proposed regulations would:

  • strengthen the accountability of food importers for the safety of their products, by requiring them to have, implement and maintain preventive food safety control plans;
  • allow the CFIA to identify and engage importers through a licensing regime; and
  • improve importers' ability to quickly identify, respond to and advise the CFIA of potentially unsafe imported food.

Who would be affected by the proposed Imported Food Sector Product Regulations?

The proposed regulations would apply to food importers of products that are not already regulated by other commodity-specific legislation under the Canadian Agricultural Products Act.

The different types of importing businesses that may be affected by the proposed regulations and that may require a licence include:

  • food importers
  • retailers
  • brokers
  • distributors
  • some domestic food manufacturers and processors
  • shipping services

All food importers are encouraged to sign up to the non-federally registered sector listserv to receive email notifications on the proposed regulations and other relevant news. For more information, continue to visit: www.inspection.gc.ca/importedfood.

What food products are affected by the proposed Imported Food Sector Product Regulations?

In general, an imported food sector product is one that:

An "agricultural product" is defined in the Canadian Agricultural Products Act as

  • "a. an animal, a plant or an animal or plant product, or
  • b. a product, including any food or drink, wholly or partly derived from an animal or a plant."

The proposed regulations would apply to products such as

  • bakery products
  • beverages
  • coffee and tea
  • confectionery/chocolate
  • fats and oils
  • grains, breads and cereals
  • infant formula
  • juices
  • meal replacements and formulated liquid diets
  • snack foods
  • spices and seasonings

Some factors may affect the regulations under which a product is regulated. This includes product composition, processing method, and product definition.

  • For example, imported products that contain fat or oil other than milk fat, including margarine, would be affected by these proposed regulations.
  • Imported bagged salad that is mixed with other components, such as croutons or dressing packets, would also be affected by these proposed regulations.

How can importers determine whether the regulation applies to them based upon the types of commodities they import?

The CFIA has published A Guide to Identifying Food Products Affected by the Proposed Imported Food Sector Product Regulations on its website. Importers of products classified as Imported Food Sector (IFS) products according to the tool will be affected by the proposed regulations. If after using this tool an importer is still uncertain if they will be affected by the proposed regulations, they can contact the CFIA for assistance.

In addition, importers are encouraged to refer to the CFIA's Automated Import Reference System (AIRS), a searchable database of CFIA import requirements. Through a series of questions and answers, the system will lead importers through the relevant regulations and policies, and will provide information on all CFIA import requirements for specific commodities.

What food products are not affected by the proposed Imported Food Sector Product Regulations?

Food products that would not be affected by the proposed Imported Food Sector Product Regulations include the following:

  • fish, as defined in the Fish Inspection Act
  • a meat product, as defined in the Meat Inspection Act
  • products already regulated by other commodity-specific legislation under the Canada Agricultural Products Act, such as
  • products that do not meet the definition of an "agricultural product" in the Canada Agricultural Products Act, such as bottled water, salt, synthetic colours and minerals
  • products not intended for sale in Canada and that are
    • for personal use;
    • used as food for the crew or passengers on any vessel, train, motor vehicle, aircraft or other means of transportation or;
    • imported from the United States into the Akwesasne Reserve for use by an Akwesasne resident (because the reserve spans the Canada-U.S. border).
  • products that are samples solely for use for scientific analysis or for business-to-business market analysis, that are not distributed for personal consumption or use

These commodities would continue to be regulated under the Food and Drugs Act, the Food and Drug Regulations and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and Regulations.

Will the CFIA help industry prepare for the new proposed regulations?

Yes. The CFIA recognizes that implementing these requirements may require a significant change to food safety management practices for many food importers.

The CFIA will implement an Interim Compliance Promotion Period to provide importers the time needed to make the necessary adjustments to achieve full compliance with the new requirements. During this time, the CFIA would work with industry, in particular small businesses, and provide guidance on the new regulatory requirements. This would allow importers time to learn about and understand the proposed Imported Food Sector Product Regulations, so they can adapt to the proposed requirements before the compliance period ends.

During this time, the CFIA will focus on educating importers on their new obligations. It will do that by:

  • improving importer awareness of the requirements for an imported food sector import licence, and
  • providing guidance on developing and implementing a preventive food safety control plan.

What will the CFIA be doing to address the needs of small businesses?

The CFIA conducted in-depth consultations with small business sector representatives in order to inform the development of the proposed Imported Food Sector Product Regulations. The proposed regulations are designed to be results-based so there is flexibility in meeting the requirements regardless of the size or complexity of the operation. The licence application process will be through a client-focussed web-based interface to make it easy for small businesses to apply, and the amount of information required for the licence will be minimized.

In addition to the Interim Compliance Promotion Period, the CFIA will make available on its website clear, plain-language guidance on the new regulatory requirements. This will include guidance on developing and implementing a preventive food safety control plan, guidance on the identification of hazards, and a series of preventive food safety control plan models that small businesses can use to help them develop their own plans.

Will there be an opportunity to comment on the Imported Food Sector Product Regulations?

The CFIA welcomes your input and feedback.

  • Stakeholder consultations held during the fall of 2010 informed the development of the proposed regulations.
  • The CFIA is again inviting stakeholders to provide comments on the proposed regulations from now until Month XX, 2013.

In addition, the CFIA will be holding a series of face to face information sessions across Canada, to increase awareness of the intent of the proposed regulations.

For more information

Proposed Imported Food Sector Product Regulations
email: IMFD/DAIM@inspection.gc.ca, or
sign up for email notification updates

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