On June 13, 2018, the final Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) were published in the Canada Gazette, Part II (CGII). These long-awaited regulations complete Canada’s new food safety legislative package and will come into force on January 15, 2019.
In June 2012, the Government of Canada tabled the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA). This omnibus legislation consolidates a number of food-related statutes and is the cornerstone of Canada’s new, modernized federal food safety system. The SFCA received royal assent in November 2012; however, its implementation has been delayed, repeatedly, pending finalization of the SFCR.
Overview of the SFCR
As summarized by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the SFCR “will make [the Canadian] food system even safer by focusing on prevention and allowing for faster removal of unsafe food from the marketplace.”1 Specifically, the SFCR will:
require food businesses that import or prepare food for export or to be sent across provincial or territorial borders to have licences;
outline preventive controls and steps to address potential risks to food safety; and
require businesses to trace their food back to their suppliers and forward to their purchasers so as to reduce the time it takes to remove unsafe food from the marketplace.2
SFCR licensing requirements
As mentioned above, the SFCR will require businesses that import food or prepare food for export or to be sent across provincial or territorial borders to hold licences to conduct their activities. The Government of Canada introduced this licensing requirement in order to align Canada’s regulations with international food safety standards and improve access to global markets.
The need for a licence under the new regulations will be determined based on a business’s activities. As identified by the CFIA, food businesses involved in the following activities will be required to obtain a licence under the SFCR:
Importing food or food products;
Manufacturing, processing, treating, preserving, grading, packaging or labelling food for export or to be sent across provincial or territorial borders;
Exporting food (where an export certificate is requested);
Slaughtering food animals from which meat products are derived for export or to be sent across provincial or territorial borders; or
Storing and handling a meat product in its imported condition for inspection by the CFIA.3
Timelines and takeaways
As the SFCR will come into force on January 15, 2019, businesses and their counsel must quickly become familiar with the new regulations and the licensing, traceability, preventive-control and other requirements they contain. Although some regulatory requirements will be phased in over a period of 12 to 30 months based on food commodity, type of activity and business size, others will have to be met immediately upon the SFCR coming into force.
The CFIA has published timetables, based on food and activity, indicating the timelines for complying with the SFCR requirements. The timelines, relevant to various businesses, are presented according to type of food commodity, namely: (i) dairy products, eggs, processed fruit or vegetable products; (ii) fish; (iii) meat products and food animals; (iv) fresh fruit or vegetables; (v) honey and maple products; (vi) unprocessed food used as grain, oil, pulse, sugar, or beverages; (vii) food additives and alcoholic beverages; and (viii) all other food. Businesses and their counsel should review these tables in order to develop a timely plan for implementing any changes required to achieve SFCR compliance.