Questions & Answers: Proposed Imported Food Sector Product Regulations
What is the regulatory proposal for the Imported Food Sector (IFS)?
Under this proposal, importers would be required to have a licence. The CFIA is proposing to charge a user fee for the issuance of an import licence. The proposed new licence fees would be published and administered through the CFIA Fees Notice under the CFIA Act.
In order to be licensed, importers would have to develop, implement, and maintain a written Preventive Food Safety Control Plan. The plan would outline the actions and measures that the importer takes to make sure their food is safe and complies with Canadian legislation.
In addition, the importer would have to
- maintain records at an address in Canada
- have a written recall plan
- notify the CFIA within 24 hours if they become aware that a product poses a hazard to consumers.
Why do we need a new regulation for the IFS?
Canada imports food from more than 190 countries and many of our domestic food products are made from imported ingredients. While our existing food safety system serves us well, it will be further strengthened by these improvements. The proposed new regulations are intended to bring consistency across importers so that everyone has the same capacity to recall food, maintain food safety oversight and interact with the CFIA.
Requirements included in the proposed regulations would increase safeguards on imported foods. For example, importers would be required to develop and implement a Preventive Food Safety Control Plan.
The proposed regulation would identify food importers through a licensing regime and require them to enhance control measures for imported food products. This would support minimizing risks in the food supply and limit the possibility of unsafe food from entering the country.
The proposed new regulation would:
- Strengthen the accountability of food importers for the safety of their products by requiring them to develop preventive food safety control plans;
- Allow the CFIA to better 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 new regulation?
The proposed new regulation would apply to food importers of products that are not already regulated by other commodity-specific legislation under the Canada Agricultural Products Act (CAPA). Food products that would or would not be affected by the proposed new regulation are explained in the following questions.
Different types of importing businesses that may be affected by the proposed new regulation and that may require a licence include
- food importers
- 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 forthcoming proposed new regulation and other relevant news. For more information, continue to visit the CFIA website.
What food products would be affected by the proposed new regulation?
The proposed regulation would apply to products such as, but not limited to:
- bakery products
- biological additives such as bakers’ and brewers’ yeast
- coffee and tea
- fats and oils
- grains, breads and cereals
- infant formula
- meal replacements and formulated liquid diets
- snack foods
- spices and seasonings
The above list gives a general overview of the types of products that would be affected by the proposed new regulation. The proposed regulation would not apply to food products that are already regulated by other commodity-specific legislation under the Canada Agricultural Products Act (CAPA). See below for examples.
Factors such as product composition, processing method, and product definition may affect the regulation under which the product is regulated. For example, imported products that contain fat or oil other than milk fat, including margarine, would be affected by this proposed new regulation. Imported bagged salad that is mixed with other components, such as croutons or dressing packets, would also be affected by this proposed new regulation. The CFIA has published A Guide to Identifying Food Products Affected by the Proposed Imported Food Sector Product Regulations on its website to help stakeholders determine which food products would be affected by this proposed new regulation.
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 to information on all CFIA import requirements for specific commodities.
What food product would not be affected by the proposed new regulation?
Food products that would not be affected by the proposed new regulation include
- 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 CAPA such as
- a dairy product, as defined in the Dairy Products Regulations;
- eggs, as defined in the Egg Regulations;
- fresh fruit, fresh vegetable, nuts or edible fungi to which the Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Regulations apply;
- honey and honey products to which the Honey Regulations apply;
- maple products as defined in the Maple Products Regulations;
- processed egg, as defined in the Processed Egg Regulations; or
- a processed product, as defined in the Processed Products Regulations.
- products that do not meet the definition of an "agricultural product" in the CAPA, such as bottled water, salt, synthetic colours and minerals,
- products not intended for sale in Canada and:
- weigh 20 kilograms or less and is for personal use or,
- is used as food for the crew or passengers on any vessel, train, motor vehicle, aircraft or other means of transportation or,
- is imported from the United States into the Akwesasne Reserve for use by an Akwesasne resident (because the reserve spans the Canada-U.S. border).
What are the proposed licence terms?
Only one licence would be required per importer regardless of the number of products imported. As a condition of the licence, however, the importer would be responsible for ensuring that their Preventive Food Safety Control Plan covers all the products that they import into Canada under the new regulations.
The proposed new licencing regime is not intended to replace any existing licencing program administered by the Government of Canada. Importers who hold a licence or registration issued under another legislation enforced by the CFIA, but who also import food products under the new regulations, would require this new licence.
Would there be a cost to obtain an import licence for Imported Food Sector (IFS) products?
The proposed cost for a two-year licence would not exceed $300. This fee proposal was developed in accordance with the CFIA's policy on cost recovery.
A consultation on the user fee proposal is currently available on the CFIA website until June 29, 2012. We invite you to review the proposal and welcome your comments. You may access the proposal on the CFIA website.
How will the CFIA ease the administrative burden on small business?
The CFIA recognizes that implementation of these requirements may require a significant change to food safety management practices for many food importers.
Consequently, requirements will be phased in and a trader education period will be implemented to provide importers the time needed to make the necessary adjustments to achieve full compliance with the new requirements. The CFIA will work with industry, in particular small businesses, and provide guidance on the new regulatory requirements. This will allow time for continued education and improving awareness of the new regulations and for adaptation and accommodation by importers to the new requirements. During this time, the focus will be on educating importers on the new obligations and requirements. The CFIA will focus on improving importer awareness of the new requirements for an IFS import licence and providing guidance on the development and implementation of a Preventive Food Safety Control Plan.
Did the CFIA consider what other jurisdictions do when deciding upon fees and service standards?
Yes, the CFIA compared its user fee proposal with Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom issues import licenses comparable to those being proposed by the CFIA. However, Australia and New Zealand issue import permits that are similar in nature to the CFIA's proposal.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently registers the facilities of individual food importers. Importers can import food and food products into the U.S. without prior approval by the FDA, as long as the facilities that produce, store or otherwise handle the products are registered and prior notice of incoming shipments is provided to the FDA.
Will there be an opportunity to comment on the regulations?
Yes. Stakeholders will have several opportunities to comment on the regulatory proposal, including
- consultations on a user fee proposal for the licensing cost and regime from April 20 to June 29, 2012; and
- consultations on the proposed new regulations, when published in Canada Gazette, Part I.
The CFIA conducted a public, online consultation on the IFS Regulatory Proposal in 2010. We also held five face-to-face information sessions in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax. You can access a report on the feedback received during the consultation process on the CFIA website. We are carefully considering this feedback as we draft the proposed regulation.
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