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The Safe Food for Canadians Act and Regulations

By Kelly Bettschen, Food Policy and Food Safety Analyst, Regina

November 2018

Workers in food processing facility
Consumers can be confident that food on
grocery shelves is safe to eat.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) Safe Food for Canadians Act (Act) and regulations have passed and will come into force January 15, 2019. After receiving royal assent in 2012, the CFIA has been developing the regulations and supporting materials to assist and clarify requirements for industry. While some requirements will have to be met immediately, others will be phased-in over a 12 to 30-month period. This timeline is dependent upon the food commodity, type of activity and business size.

If you are a food business or import foods, it is important that you take some time to familiarize yourself with the Act and its regulations.

What do these new regulations mean for consumers?

Canada is widely regarded as having one of the best food safety systems in the world. The new regulations are intended to put a greater emphasis on preventing risks to food safety. According to the CFIA website, regulations will provide clear and consistent rules for food commodities. Consumers can be confident that food on grocery shelves is safe to eat, whether it is produced in Canada or abroad. Consumers will benefit from:

  • Regulations that focus on prevention and target unsafe food practices;
  • Tougher penalties for activities that put health and safety at risk;
  • Greater control over imports; and
  • Faster recalls.

The new rules are consistent with international food safety standards and will strengthen Canada's food safety system, enable industry to innovate and create greater market access opportunities for Canadian food products exported abroad.

What do these new regulations mean for businesses?

Under the new regulations, many agribusinesses will require a licence. This includes businesses that manufacture, process, treat, preserve, grade, package or label a food that will be exported or moved between provinces. The Act determines if a business requires a licence based on its activities, not based on the type of business. In addition, any business involved in the following operations requires a licence:

  • Importing food;
  • Exporting food that requires an export certificate or permission;
  • Slaughtering an animal where meat will be exported or moved between provinces; or/and
  • Storing and handling a meat product in its imported condition for inspection by CFIA.

What are “Preventive Control Plans”?

These plans address food safety hazards, control measures and associated evidence of their effectiveness. This is consistent with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). If you have a HACCP plan in place, you are well positioned to be in compliance with Preventive Control Plan requirements. All HACCP plans should be reviewed to make sure consumer protection and market fairness (labelling, compositional standards, grades etc.) are met.

What about the new traceability requirements?

The regulations require food traceability to track the movement of a food or food commodity one step back and one step forward. For many foods/food products, this means the source of each food product must be recorded, as well as its destination. By keeping these records, unsafe food products can be quickly removed from the marketplace.

This requirement applies to a broad scope of food businesses, such as distributors and wholesalers who trade inter-provincially. The requirement does not apply to food service operations. More details on the traceability requirements can be found on CFIA website.

Are there any supports or funding in place to assist food businesses?

In Saskatchewan, funding is available under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership for food processors to enhance and maintain food safety by providing assessments, education/training and rebates to food processors.  

If you have questions about the Safe Food for Canadians Act or regulations, check out the CFIA’s website. Or, you can call 1-800-442-2342 or use the contact us form found on their website.

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