- Canadian Food Inspection Agency
- Canada Border Services Agency
- Foreign Affairs and International Trade
- Environment Canada
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada
- Health Canada
- Measurement Canada
- Provincial and Territorial Governments
- Health and Safety
- Good Importing Practices
- Net Quantity
- Food Allergens
- Addition of Vitamin and Mineral Nutrients to Food
- Novel Foods - Biotechnology
- Foods Containing Food Additives
- Food Irradiation
- Alcoholic Beverages
- Dairy Products
- Eggs and Processed Eggs
- Fish and Fish Products
- Food Additives
- Food Colour
- Foods for Special Dietary Use, including Weight Loss
- Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
- Fruit and Vegetable Products - Processed
- Infant Formula (Human Milk Substitutes)
- Low Acid Foods in Hermetically Sealed Containers (Canned Foods)
- Maple Products
- Meat and Poultry
- Novel Foods - Biotechnology
- Sports Nutrition Products
- Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act (AMPs)
- Canada Agricultural Products Act and Associated Regulations (CAP Act)
- Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
- Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act
- Customs Act
- Export and Import Permits Act
- Fish Inspection Act
- Fisheries Act
- Food and Drugs Act
- Health of Animals Act
- Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act
- Meat Inspection Act
- Plant Protection Act
- Weights and Measures Act
- Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act
- Government of Canada
- Federal Government Departments and Agencies
- Provincial and Territorial Departments
- Provincial and Territorial Liquor Control
Note to User
This Guide contains only general information. There is no guarantee, warranty, assurance or anything similar that this Guide contains all information and requirements for the import of food products or that the information contained in this Guide and on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Website is correct, accurate and complete.
The user assumes all risks and responsibilities for the use of and any reliance on the information in the Guide and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Website. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency shall not be liable for any loss or damages resulting from or in connection with the use of or reliance on the information.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Government of Canada accept no liability for and do not warrant the accuracy or content of information contained in any other site to which this Guide refers. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is not affiliated with any commercial sites to which reference may be made. The views and opinions expressed in non-Agency sites to which reference may be made do not reflect the views, opinions or policies of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Information on non-federal government sites may not be available in both official languages.
The purpose of this Guide is to present an overview of the federal regulatory and policy requirements for the commercial importation of food into Canada. It is designed for importers, consultants and those considering embarking on an import venture.
A number of federal acts and regulations govern the importation of food. Section A gives an overview of the applicable legislative framework, with Appendix I providing more detailed information regarding the specific acts and regulations. However, this Guide is not intended to replace any federal regulations. It is recommended that importers consult the actual legislation where appropriate.
Federal and Provincial Agencies and Departments
The regulation of the importation of food into Canada is the shared responsibility of several federal agencies and departments. The primary federal bodies involved are the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Canada Border Services Agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Section B provides a brief description of the mandates and working arrangements of these and other federal departments involved in food regulation.
In some provinces, importers may also have to meet specific provincial requirements for certain products. For information on provincial government services and programs, consult the reference telephone numbers listed under Provincial and Territorial Information in Appendix II.
For information regarding federal and provincial business related programs, services and regulations, the Canada Business web site is a convenient place to start.
Requirements for Imported Foods
Section C outlines the overall responsibility of the importer to ensure that products imported into Canada comply with all Canadian requirements. It also provides information on how to register an import business and identifies some of the books and records that an importer should maintain.
Section D briefly summarizes some general requirements that all food products must meet. It outlines, for example, the legislative basis of one of the foremost concerns of the Canadian import policy, the health and safety of the food supply. The section also deals with Good Importing Practices, Canadian labelling requirements (including net quantity declaration), and health and safety concerns during the transport of food. Section E sets out requirements by commodity. It functions as a quick reference guide for specific products.
Import Procedures and Tariff Rate Quotas
Section F briefly summarizes import procedures and Customs programs designed to process goods efficiently and shorten the transit time at the border.
Since certain agricultural goods are subject to import controls through tariff rate quotas, Section G explains the tariff rate quota system.
Universal Product Code (UPC)
Although the Universal Product Code (UPC or bar code) is not required or administered by government, virtually all retailers require the merchandise they carry to be labelled with a UPC. Appendix III provides information on where to obtain a UPC
SECTION A - Canadian Food Legislation
The Food and Drugs Act and Regulations is the primary legislation that applies to all food sold in Canada, whether imported or domestic. This legislation sets out minimum health and safety requirements, as well as provisions preventing fraud or deception (labelling, composition, packaging, treatment, processing, sale and advertising).
Various statutes contain standards or specifications that complement or further define the food standards set out in the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations. The Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and Regulations, for example, establish labelling and net quantity requirements for consumer packaged goods for sale in Canada. The Canada Agricultural Products Act and associated Regulations, the Fish Inspection Act and Regulations and the Meat Inspection Act and Regulations also contain food standards. However, these statutes are primarily intended to ensure the marketability of food products traded internationally and interprovincially, through a combination of safety, quality and grading standards.
Several federal statutes are designed to protect Canadian agriculture, fish stocks, forestry, industry and wildlife from the introduction of animal and plant diseases and pests: the Health of Animals Act and Regulations, the Plant Protection Act and Regulations, and the Fish Health Protection Regulations of the Fisheries Act. These statutes restrict the importation of certain foods from specific areas of concern or require phytosanitary certificates, permits or other documentation.
To permit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to take effective enforcement action against importers and domestic companies marketing products that do not meet Canadian regulatory standards, the Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act will allow regional CFIA officials to issue monetary penalties for non-compliance with provisions of the seven agri-food Acts to which this legislation applies.
Appendix I of this Guide provides brief descriptions of these and other federal statutes relevant to the importation of food. The list, however, is not exhaustive. There may be health and safety requirements in other federal or provincial acts.
Key Federal Legislation
SECTION B - Government Agencies and Departments Responsible for Imported Food
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.
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, CFIA administers and/or enforces the following acts:
- Food and Drugs Act*
- Canada Agricultural Products Act
- Meat Inspection Act
- Fish Inspection Act
- Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act*
- 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
* as it relates to food
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency provides a Single Access Food Labelling Service with offices located across the country. The Service acts as the single federal contact point for food labelling information and provides a food label review service.
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.
- 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.
The Export and Import Controls Bureau of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade 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
- Broiler Hatching Eggs and Chicks
- Shell Eggs and Egg Products
- Ice Cream, Yogurt
- Other Dairy Products
- Barley and Barley Products
- Wheat and Wheat Products
- Beef and Veal from Non-NAFTA* countries
* North American Free Trade Agreement
- Agricultural Products Subject to Export
- Peanut Butter
- Sugar Containing Products
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.
There are disease concerns with the importation of dead uneviscerated salmon and trout from fish farms and with the importation of live salmonid eggs and fish imported for aquaculture or for government enhancement programs. Consequently, import permits issued under the Fish Health Protection Regulations must accompany each shipment of these products entering Canada.
Importers must apply to the Local Fish Health Officer in the receiving province to obtain an import permit. For additional information and/or addresses of the Local Fish Health Officers, please contact the National Registry of Aquatic Animal Health (Fisheries and Oceans 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, 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 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.
SECTION C - Importer Responsibilities
The Government of Canada has introduced a more efficient numbering system for businesses. With this new system, one number, the business number (BN), has replaced the many numbers that were needed to deal with the federal government. All commercial importers must have a business number for any import/export account with Canada Border Services Agency.
The business number has 15 digits: nine numbers to identify the business, plus two letters and four numbers to identify the program and each account. The system includes major types of Canada Border Services Agency programs that many businesses may be registered for, including GST, payroll deductions, corporate income tax and import/export (identified by RM). For example, an import/export account will look like this 12345 6789 RM0002.
In order to obtain an import/export account, traders should obtain a copy of Form RC1, Request for a Business Number (BN), which is available from any Canada Border Services Agency office. The Canada Border Services Agency will issue an account free of charge, as soon as the form is completed and submitted.
For most shipments entering Canada, importers will have to show an import/export account on customs documents.
More information regarding the business number is available in the Canada Border Services Agency publication The Business Number and Your Revenue Canada Accounts. If a business is registered in Quebec, the publication The Business Number and Your Revenue Canada Accounts in Quebec should be consulted. Both publications are available from Canada Border Services Agency. (For contact information, see Appendix II.)
Health and Safety Records
In accordance with Good Importing Practices (see Section D of this Guide), importers should keep records of the distribution of their products, so that goods may be efficiently and effectively recalled from the market place when a food poses a health risk to the population or when a serious contravention of the regulations has occurred. Records of consumer complaints and action taken should also be maintained, and all records should be kept for two years.
Importers are required to keep books and records to substantiate what goods have been imported, the quantities, the prices paid, and the country of origin. Records must be kept in Canada, in paper or electronic format, for six years after the importation of goods. To keep records outside of Canada, written permission from Canada Revenue Agency is required.
Even if a customs broker carries out customs activities on behalf of the importer, the records should be kept on the importer's premises. The importer is responsible for all records on reporting, releasing, accounting for, and paying for goods, as well as later adjustments. For more details, see Canada Border Services Agency's Memorandum D17-21, Maintenance of Records and Books in Canada by Importers. (For contact information, see Appendix II.)
SECTION D - General Requirements for Foods
To ensure a safe and nutritious food supply, all foods sold in Canada, whether domestic or imported, must meet the health and safety requirements of the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations. Enforcement is provided for in criminal law.
Section 4 of the Food and Drugs Act prohibits the sale of an article of food that:
- has in or upon it any poisonous or harmful substance;
- is unfit for human consumption;
- consists in whole or in part of any filthy, putrid, disgusting, rotten, decomposed or diseased animal or vegetable substance;
- is adulterated; or
- was manufactured, prepared, preserved, packaged, or stored under unsanitary conditions.
Good Importing Practices are proper food handling procedures that facilitate the identification and control of problems that may be encountered at all stages of importation, from the planning stages through to the final distribution in Canada. Adherence to Good Importing Practices should ensure compliance with the health and safety requirements of Canadian legislation. Proposed amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations will make this voluntary code of practice into a regulatory requirement.
A booklet entitled "Good Importing Practices - Code of Practice for Use By Canadian Food Importers" may be obtained from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Import Service Centre. (For contact information, see Appendix II.)
All foods packaged for consumer use and imported into Canada must comply with basic food labelling requirements specified by the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and Regulations.
Labelling requirements include the common name of the food, a list of ingredients and components, the name and address of the responsible party, a net quantity declaration in metric and a best before date when required. The Nutrition Facts table is mandatory for most prepackaged foods with some exceptions and exemptions. The format and information provided must comply with the Guidelines on Nutritional Labelling developed by Health Canada and also with the Food and Drug Regulations. Agricultural and fish products for which standards exist under the Meat Inspection Act, Canadian Agricultural Products Act and associated Regulations, and the Fish Inspection Act may have additional labelling requirements (e.g. grade or country of origin).
All mandatory labelling information and nutritional labelling, other than the name and address of responsible party, is required to be declared in both French and English.
It should be noted that Canadian labelling requirements may differ significantly from those of the United States and other countries. As an example, the United States' Nutrition Labelling Information (Nutrition Facts) is not currently permitted on products imported into Canada.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has Single Access Food Labelling Service offices across the country serving the business community. These offices, located in major urban centres, provide labelling information for all food except fish. (See Appendix II.)
The Guide to Food Labelling and Advertising is a comprehensive reference document providing current federal food labelling and advertising policies and regulatory requirements. The Guide is now available on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website at: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/labeti/guide/guidee.shtml.
In Canada, net quantity declarations on consumer packaged products must be expressed in metric units of weight (grams or kilograms), volume (millilitres, litres) or count (when applicable). The manner of declaring net quantity and the method of determining the accuracy of net quantity declarations for consumer packaged products, as well as commercial, industrial or institutional products, are based on the average system. The average system is prescribed in the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and Regulations, in the case of consumer packaged products, and the Weights and Measures Act and Regulations, in the case of commercial, industrial or institutional products.
The average system is based on three criteria:
- the average net content of all packages in a lot must not be less than the declared net quantity;
- only a specified number of samples in a lot are allowed to contain less than the declared net quantity by more than the prescribed tolerance (as set out in the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations); and
- no more than one sample in a lot may contain less than the declared net quantity by more than twice the prescribed tolerance.
Sampling procedures for the average system are designed to be closely representative of the lot of merchandise being tested.
The Weights and Measures Act and Regulations prescribe the manner of net quantity declarations for food products sold in bulk and clerk-served foods sold at retail.
Additional information on the application and interpretation of these regulatory requirements can be obtained from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Import Service Centre or Measurement Canada. (For contact information, see Appendix III.)
Food products require more careful handling than other commodities. Food should not be shipped with dangerous or hazardous goods (chemicals, auto parts, etc.). Food shipments that have been contaminated by incompatible goods in the container/truck may be refused entry into Canada. Temperature sensitive goods, such as frozen food or fresh fruits, require a climate controlled shipping environment.
Requirements for safe transportation of goods should be part of the agreement between traders and carriers.
A variety of foods can cause adverse reactions in hypersensitive individuals. These reactions can vary from minor to life-threatening. Most adverse food reactions are caused by the following foods or their derivatives:
- tree nuts (e.g., almonds, Brazils, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pinenuts, pistachios, walnuts)
- sesame seeds
- crustaceans (e.g., crab, crayfish, lobster, shrimp)
- shellfish (e.g., clams, mussels, oysters, scallops)
If these foods and their by-products or derivatives are not labelled or are incorrectly labelled, or if inadvertent carry-over occurs during manufacture, the results can be serious and sometimes fatal.
Importers are encouraged to identify these ingredients on food labels when they appear as ingredients or components. It is also recommended that the plant source of all forms of hydrolysed plant proteins, starches, and lecithin be identified (e.g., hydrolysed soy protein, modified wheat starch, soy lecithin).
Experience has shown that undeclared ingredients may occur as a result of:
- carry-over of product through incomplete cleaning of food contact surfaces and utensils, sometimes because of poor equipment design;
- inappropriate use of rework materials containing ingredients causing adverse reactions;
- ingredient changes, substitutions or additions not reflected on the label;
- product in wrong packages because of mix-up of packaging material;
- printing error or omission from list of ingredients;
- unknown ingredients in raw materials;
- use of incorrect common names to describe products/ingredients (e.g., mandelonas for reformed peanuts);
- labelling exemptions.
Despite all possible precautions, the presence of allergens cannot always be avoided. Consequently, a policy on precautionary labelling has been developed, which allows industry to voluntarily label products that may inadvertently contain substances capable of causing severe adverse reactions (e.g., "May contain peanuts").
The addition of vitamins, minerals and amino acids to food is regulated by the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations. Section D.03.002 of the Food and Drug Regulations specifies which foods may be enriched and with which nutrients. (There are limited exceptions to this regulation.)
Canadian requirements for the addition of nutrients to food may differ significantly from the United States and other countries.
Vitamins and/or mineral supplements are regulated as drugs in Canada. For further information on these products, contact the Therapeutic Products Directorate of Health Canada.
Canada has a stringent process for evaluating the safety of novel foods, including foods derived through genetic modification (biotechnology). New novel food regulations under the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations (Division 28) require that manufacturers and importers of novel foods notify Health Canada of their intention to market a new product in Canada. This pre-market notification allows Health Canada to conduct a thorough safety assessment of the product.
In addition, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency conducts assessments of plants with novel traits, including transgenic plants, and/or products derived from them such as fruit, tubers and grains to evaluate their risk to the agricultural and forestry environment. Consequently, special import requirements of these products exist. Importers should contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency prior to importation to verify if import permits are required.
The use of food additives is strictly controlled by the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations. The food additive tables in Division 16 of the Regulations prescribe which additives may be used in foods sold in Canada, to which foods they may be added, for what purposes, and at what levels.
Canadian requirements and the list of acceptable food additives may differ from those of the United States and other countries. Products containing non-permitted food additives may be refused entry into Canada.
Irradiation of food is regulated by the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations. Only the following foods are currently allowed to be irradiated in Canada: potatoes, onions, wheat, flour, whole wheat flour, whole or ground spices and dehydrated seasoning preparations.
Special labelling requirements apply to irradiated foods and foods containing irradiated ingredients. Irradiated foods not in compliance with the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations are not permitted for sale in Canada.
SECTION E - Summary of Import Requirements for Food Commodities
This section contains a summary of commodities that are subject to specific import requirements for commercial shipments or have specific compositional requirements.
As outlined in Section A, all foods sold in Canada are subject to the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations, which contain health and safety requirements, labelling requirements and provisions preventing deception and fraud. However, many agricultural and fish products are also subject to other legislation. Consequently, the need for licensing, permits and certificates varies depending upon the type of food being imported and, in some cases, on the country or area from which the food is imported.
In certain circumstances the importer is required to be licensed with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. This applies, for example, to importers of fish products. In other cases, each shipment of a specific commodity must be accompanied by an official certificate from the authorities of the exporting country and/or an approval or permit from the appropriate Canadian federal department. For some products, such as dairy products, the importer is required to provide an Import Declaration to the effect that the product is sound and fit for human consumption.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency's Automated Import Reference System (http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/imp/airse.shtml) contains detailed information on the federal import requirements for all foods. (See Section F for more information.)
It should be noted that in some provinces there are additional requirements for certain foods, such as dairy products, margarine, bottled water, and maple syrup.
A Note on TRQs
Certain agricultural goods are subject to Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs) and some require an import permit issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. TRQs and the presence or absence of import permits may drastically affect the rate of tariff charged for a commodity. Please note that firms importing restricted goods without a specific import permit will automatically be charged the high tariff rate by Canada Border Services Agency. At this point, specific import permits will not normally be issued. (For more information regarding TRQs and Import Permits, see Section G.)
The Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, a federal statute, gives the provinces and territories full control over the importation of intoxicating liquor into their jurisdictions. (Note: there are certain exceptions, such as bulk importations by licensed distillers and brewers for blending purposes). Consequently, importers should consult the appropriate provincial or territorial liquor authority before considering the importation or interprovincial trade of intoxicating liquor. (See Appendix III for contact information.)
Standards of identity and labelling requirements for alcoholic beverages exist in the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations, the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and Regulations and the Excise Act and Regulations. Standardized container size requirements for wine exist in the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations.
In addition to the basic food labelling provisions, alcoholic beverages are subject to further requirements, such as the declaration of alcohol content by volume. The Guide to Food Labelling and Advertising provides a thorough overview of the labelling requirements for alcoholic beverages. (See Section D: Labelling.)
Butter, cheddar cheese, dry milk products and variety cheeses are regulated by the Dairy Products Regulations under the Canada Agricultural Products Act. Imported dairy products must comply with these regulations, which cover quality, labelling, packaging and grading, as well as health and safety. In addition, the Health of Animals Act restricts the importation of certain dairy products from countries where the presence of animal diseases poses a threat to Canadian agriculture and health. Most dairy products also require an import permit issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. (Please see Section G for further information.)
An Import Declaration, completed in duplicate, must accompany each dairy product shipment, indicating that the products were manufactured from sound raw materials and prepared under sanitary conditions, and that the products were sound and fit for human consumption at the time of shipment.
As of December 14, 2008, all cheese importers must hold a valid cheese import licence issued by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in order to import cheese. At present, there is no federal requirement for importers of other dairy products to be licensed. Product inspection may take place at the product's entry point or at its destination point, at the discretion of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Both shell and processed chicken eggs must meet the requirements set out in the Egg Regulations and Processed Egg Regulations, respectively, of the Canadian Agricultural Products Act. Shell eggs are destined for either the table market or breaking stock. Processed eggs are frozen egg, frozen egg mix, liquid egg, liquid egg mix, dried egg, dried egg mix and egg product, including all products consisting of 50 percent or more of egg.
These products may only be imported from a country with an inspection program and grade standards equivalent to Canada's. Shipments will be inspected upon entry into Canada and must be accompanied by inspection documentation issued by officials of the exporting country, certifying that the products conform to Canadian standards.
Both shell eggs and processed eggs require an import permit issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. (Please see Section G for further information.) In addition, the Health of Animals Act restricts the importation of eggs and processed eggs from countries where the presence of animal diseases pose a threat to Canadian agriculture and health.
Eggs from different species of birds, balut eggs, and preserved duck eggs, are not subject to the Egg Regulations. However, eggs and egg shells from birds and reptiles listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) require export permits from the country of origin and, in some cases, import permits issued by Environment Canada under the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA). (See Section B: Environment Canada; Section E: Wildlife ; and Section F: Import Procedures and Documents .)
Fish and fish products are subject to the Fish Inspection Act and Regulations, which contain requirements for wholesomeness, labelling, packaging, grading, and health and safety.
Importers of fish and fish products must have an Import Licence issued by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and must notify the closest Canadian Food Inspection Agency fish inspection office in writing each time they import fish. Restrictions apply to the importation of live or raw bivalve molluscan shellfish such as mussels, clams and oysters. Import permits may be required for certain types of cultured fish. (See Section B: Fisheries and Oceans Canada.) Certain provinces may have additional requirements for the importation of live fish.
All sturgeons are regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). This means that all sturgeon, including their meat and caviar, require a CITES export permit from the exporting country. Some species also require a CITES import permit issued by Environment Canada. (See Section B: Environment Canada, Section E: Wildlife and Section F: Import Procedures and Documents.)
In the absence of specifications under the Food and Drug Regulations, food additives must conform to specifications in the Food Chemicals Codex, Fourth Edition, 1996 (as required by Section B.01.045 of the Food and Drug Regulations).
The labels on food additive preparations must include either:
- a quantitative statement of the amount of each additive present, or
- directions for use which, if followed, will produce a food that does not contain additives in excess of the maximum levels as prescribed in Division 16 of the Food and Drug Regulations.
Synthetic food colours are unique because they are the only additives that must be certified by the Health Products and Food Branch, Health Canada before being used in foods. Regulations concerning food colours are listed in Division 6, and Table III of Division 16 of the Food and Drug Regulations.
Before a colour destined for use in food may enter the country or be distributed for use, it must be certified. Health Products and Food Branch officials both administer and audit a certification program for manufacturers of food colour.
Manufacturers who participate in this program can obtain "self-certification status".
Only manufacturers with "self-certification status" may apply to certify a food colour. A 100-gram sample of the dye, a certificate of analysis and analytical data must be forwarded to the Health Products and Food Branch in Ottawa. If the request for certification is approved, a certificate number (CN) is issued by the Food Research Division, and the Canadian importer is supplied with a letter indicating that the specific lot of dye (identified by lot number and quantity) has been assigned a specific CN. This number covers only the colour and shipment identified in the letter.
A copy of the letter must be presented by the importer to Canada Border Services Agency before the dye is released from Customs. At present, certificates issued by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are also acceptable in Canada.
Procedures for Food Colour Lakes are somewhat similar, except that they must be manufactured from a certified colour. Identification Numbers (IN) are issued instead of CN numbers.
Further information on the certification program can be obtained from the Health Products and Food Branch, Health Canada, (see Appendix II for contact information).
The composition and labelling of foods for special dietary use are regulated under Division 24 of the Food and Drug Regulations and include: formulated liquid diets, meal replacements, carbohydrate-reduced foods, sodium reduced foods, low calorie foods, etc.
It is important to note that the only food products that may be promoted for use in a weight reduction diet are meal replacements, foods for very low calorie diets, prepackaged meals that meet the requirements of Division 24 of the Regulations and foods sold in weight loss clinics to clients for use in their programs. No other foods may be promoted for weight loss.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, including nuts and edible fungi, are regulated by the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Regulations under the Canada Agricultural Products Act. These regulations cover quality, labelling, packaging, grading, and health and safety requirements.
Commercial importers of fresh fruits and vegetables must have a Produce Licence issued by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency or be a member of the Dispute Resolution Corporation (DRC). Each shipment of fresh produce must be accompanied by a Confirmation of Sale form in triplicate, which is the importer's evidence that there is a firm purchase agreement. This form is reviewed by a Customs officer at the products' point of entry, and relayed to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
To ensure compliance with Canadian standards for safety, quality, labelling, packaging and grading, all shipments of fresh produce are subject to examination upon entry into Canada by an inspector of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Special requirements also exist for the importation of products shipped in bulk.
To prevent the introduction and spread of plant diseases and pests, fresh fruits and vegetables are subject to the Plant Protection Act and Regulations. Consequently, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency requires import permits and/or phytosanitary certificates for certain fresh fruits and vegetables from specific countries or states.
For detailed information regarding Canadian import requirements for fresh fruit and vegetables, refer to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) website at: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/frefra/cdnreqe.shtml.
Information on Canadian plant protection requirements may be found at http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/imp/airse.shtml
Fresh fruit and vegetables derived from a plant with a novel trait (i.e., derived from biotechnology) are considered novel foods (see section on novel foods).
Processed fruit and vegetable products include canned and frozen fruits and vegetables as well as some other fruit and vegetable products (vegetable soup, prepared mustard, spaghetti in tomato sauce, etc.).
Imported product must comply with the Processed Products Regulations under the Canada Agricultural Products Act. These regulations cover quality, labelling, packaging (including standardized sizes), grading, and health and safety requirements.
Each shipment must be accompanied by an Import Declaration form in duplicate, which indicates that the products meet the requirements of the Processed Products Regulations and were processed under sanitary conditions, and that they were sound, wholesome and fit for human consumption at time of shipment. At present, there is no federal requirement for importers of processed fruits and vegetables to be licensed.
All shipments are subject to inspection by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency at their destination point.
The section, "Low Acid Foods in Hermetically Sealed Containers", contains further information.
Tariff Rate Quotas for wheat, barley and their products were instituted on August 1, 1995. Consequently, an import permit issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is required to import these products. (Please see Section G for further information.)
For detailed information regarding Canadian phytosanitary import requirements, refer to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) website at: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/plaveg/grains/grainse.shtml
Please note that grains derived from a plant with a novel trait (i.e., derived from biotechnology) are considered novel foods (see section on novel foods).
The Canadian Grain Commission and the Canada Border Services Agency may also have requirements regarding the importation of grains into Canada and should be contacted prior to importation.
Honey and honey products are regulated by the Honey Regulations under the Canada Agricultural Products Act. Imported products must comply with these regulations, which cover quality, labelling, packaging, grading, and health and safety requirements.
Each shipment of honey and honey products must be accompanied by an Import Declaration, Request for Release Approval and Customs Transaction Document. This documentation must be presented to the CFIA Import Service Centre for clearance before shipments are allowed entry into Canada by CBSA officers. The importer or the importer's authorized agent must declare that the honey meets the requirements of the Honey Regulations. This means that the honey was prepared under sanitary conditions, and is wholesome and fit for human consumption. All shipments of honey are subject to inspection at their destination point, by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency restricts the importation of honey from countries where the presence of animal diseases poses a threat to Canadian agriculture and health.
The composition and labelling of foods for infants are regulated under Division 25 of the Food and Drug Regulations. In the case of new infant formulas and those which have undergone a major change, manufacturers and importers are required to notify Health Canada of their intention to market the products. The information to be submitted in this "pre-market notification" is outlined in Division 25 of the Regulations. It permits Health Canada to conduct a thorough safety assessment for the proposed product.
Low acid foods in hermetically sealed containers (LAFHSC) are foods that generally have a pH greater than 4.6, a water activity greater than 0.85 and are packaged in containers that preclude the entrance of microorganisms and air. Traditionally, these products have been limited to canned vegetables, mushrooms, meat, fish and poultry. However, with the recent progress in food technology and packaging techniques (including the tetra-pak container concept), and with the influx of new foods to the Canadian market, the variety of low acid foods in hermetically sealed containers is increasing very rapidly.
These foods, if improperly processed or packaged in damaged, leaky containers, can provide a perfect medium for the growth of bacteria which may cause illness (including botulism, a potentially deadly form of food poisoning). Division 27 of the Food and Drug Regulations contains requirements specific to these products to prevent and control any public health threat.
Food labels or containers must bear a legible and permanent code or lot number that identifies the establishment and the date (day, month and year) the food was processed. The importer must be able to provide the exact meaning of this code or lot number to an inspector upon request.
Knowledge of the production and quality control procedures implemented at the manufacturing plant is important, in order to ensure that the imported food is safe and does not pose a health hazard.
Effective January 1, 1995, margarine was placed on the Import Control List established under the Export and Import Permits Act. Therefore, an import permit issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is required to import margarine. (Please see Section G for further information.)
The Food and Drug Regulations outline standards of identity and composition for both margarine and calorie-reduced margarine. Certain provinces may also have restrictions on the addition of colour to margarine.
Maple products include maple syrup, maple sugar, soft maple sugar, maple butter and maple taffy, that are obtained exclusively from maple sap.
Imported maple products must meet the requirements of the Maple Products Regulations under the Canada Agricultural Products Act. These regulations cover quality, labelling, packaging (including standardized sizes), grading, and health and safety requirements. At present, there is no federal requirement for importers of maple syrup and maple products to be licensed.
All shipments are subject to inspection at their destination point by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Importation of meat and poultry meat products into Canada is regulated by the Meat Inspection Act and Regulations and the Health of Animals Act and Regulations, administered by the CFIA, and the Export and Import Permits Act, administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International trade.
Before the products are imported, the exporting country must be evaluated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and found to have a national meat inspection system, including a residue monitoring program, equivalent to that of Canada. As well, foreign establishments must be approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency before being eligible to export to Canada.
To prevent the introduction of animal diseases, all importations of meat products are subject to the Health of Animals Act and Regulations. Some foreign countries are restricted in the type of product they can export to Canada.
Before they are imported, all prepared meat and poultry products require a label/recipe registration issued by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. This requirement also applies to all raw meat and poultry sold in consumer packages.
Each commercial shipment of meat must be certified by the foreign national veterinary competent authorities. The certificates, along with other information for all imported meat and poultry meat product shipments, must be presented to the CFIA Import Service Centre for clearance before the shipments are allowed entry into Canada by CBSA officers. All shipments from countries other than USA, must be then presented in one of the Canadian establishments registered under the Meat Inspection Regulations, 1990 for inspection of imported meat products, for inspection by a CFIA inspector. In the case of meat imports from the USA, one in every ten shipments of similar products from the same US processing establishment must be delivered to one of the Canadian establishments registered under the Meat Inspection Regulations, 1990 for inspection of meat products imported from the USA, for inspection by a CFIA inspector.
Shipments of poultry (fresh or prepared) and fresh, chilled and frozen beef from non-NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) countries usually require an import permit issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. (Please see Section G for further information.)
Novel Foods - Biotechnology
Novel foods include:
- a substance, including a microorganism, that does not have a history of safe use as a food;
- a food that has been manufactured, prepared, preserved, or packaged by a
- has not been previously applied to that food, and
- caused the food to undergo a major change; and
- a food that is derived from a plant, animal or microorganism that has been
genetically modified such that
- the plant, animal or microorganism exhibits characteristics that were not previously observed in that plant, animal or microorganism,
- the plant, animal or microorganism no longer exhibits characteristics that were previously observed in that plant, animal or microorganism,
- one or more characteristics of the plant, animal or microorganism no longer fall within the anticipated range for that plant, animal or microorganism.
The Novel Food Regulations under the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations (Division 28) establish a clear and stringent process for evaluating the safety of novel foods. Manufacturers and importers of novel foods are required to notify Health Canada of their intention to market a new product in Canada, before sale or advertisement for sale. This pre-market notification permits Health Canada to conduct a thorough safety assessment of the proposed product.
Safety assessment of a novel food includes the following considerations: evaluation of the process used to develop the food product; comparison of its characteristics to those of traditional food counterparts; its nutritional quality; the potential for new toxicants or anti-nutrients; and the potential allergenicity of any proteins that have been introduced into the food by genetic modification techniques. In this way, Health Canada provides assurance that the novel food is safe.
For information on novel foods, consult the Health Canada web site at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/contact/index-eng.php
The responsibility for the labelling of novel foods is shared between Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. For information on the labelling of novel foods, see the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's web site at: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/labeti/novnou/novnoue.shtml
Importers are also required to notify the Canadian Food Inspection Agency of their intention to import fruits, vegetables, tubers and grains derived from plants with novel traits, including transgenic plants. Assessments of the proposed products will be conducted to evaluate the risk to the agricultural and forestry environment.
For detailed information regarding Canadian plant protection import requirements, refer to D-96-13: Import Requirements for Plants with Novel Traits, including Transgenic Plants and their Viable Plant Parts
Canada has very specific compositional and labelling requirements for foods, and strictly controls the addition of vitamins, minerals and amino acids to foods. (See Section D: Addition of Vitamin and Mineral Nutrients to Food.) Many sports nutrition products produced outside the country do not comply with the compositional and labelling requirements contained in the Food and Drug Regulations. They may contain non-permitted ingredients, and/or make unacceptable label claims. Some products, because of their composition or because they bear drug claims, are considered drugs and require a Drug Identification Number (DIN) from the Therapeutic Products Directorate, Health Canada, before they can be sold in Canada.
Importers of certain exotic and rare foods should be aware that Environment Canada administers the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, commonly known as CITES. This Convention controls the international movement of designated wildlife through an international permit system. (See Section B: Environment Canada, and Section F: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.) In Canada, all CITES import permits are issued by the CITES Management Authority of the Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, Ottawa: 819-997-1840.
All CITES-regulated wild animals and plants, whether alive or dead, are controlled, including their parts or derivatives, and specimens bred in captivity or artificially-propagated.
All endangered wild animals and plants listed in Appendix I of the Convention must receive prior import authorization from the CITES Management Authority in Canada, as well as prior export authorization from the CITES Management Authority for the country of export. Commercial trade in these species is not normally permitted.
Generally, all other CITES-controlled animals and plants listed in Appendices II and III of the Convention can be commercially traded as long as prior export authorization has been obtained from the CITES Management Authority of the country of export. If the import is accompanied by a valid foreign CITES export permit, no Canadian CITES import permit is required.
There are also controls on the importation of certain species designated as harmful to our ecosystems under the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act. (WAPPRIITA)
All live animals listed under CITES must be transported in accordance with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Live Animal Regulations and CITES Guidelines for Transport.
SECTION F - Import Procedures and Documents
Canada Border Services Agency Requirements
In order to obtain the release of a commercial shipment at the Customs office, the following documents are required:
- two copies of the cargo control document. This document may be a manifest, waybill or some other approved document obtained from the carrier or freight forwarder.
- two copies of an invoice to support the value of the goods. This invoice provides information concerning the shipment including: details regarding the importer and exporter, a description of the goods, the value of the goods, the country of origin and destination of the goods, and the currency of settlement. A Canada Customs' invoice or a commercial invoice containing all the required information is necessary for goods with a value of $1,600 or greater. An additional copy of the invoice is required in cases where the importer or broker intends to transmit the final accounting data through CADEX (Customs Automated Data Exchange).
- two copies of a fully completed B3 form, for all shipments for commercial use in Canada, regardless of value. The B3 document is used for duty and tax purposes. A third copy of this form is required by Statistics Canada for shipments valued over $1,600.
- all permits, certificates, licenses or other documentation required by Canada Border Services Agency or other government departments for the release of food shipments. Generally, original documents are necessary.
Special programs exist to speed the transit time through Customs. The Pre-Arrival Review System (PARS) allows Customs to process release information before the goods arrive, thus accelerating release or referral of goods when they do arrive. The Frequent Import Release System (FIRST) processes repetitive importations of low risk shipments with a significant savings in time.
Release on Minimum Documentation Option is another program offered by Canada Border Services Agency, to importers or brokers who post security with Canada Border Services Agency for release of goods prior to payment of duties. Importers or brokers requesting this option provide specified minimal documentation rather than the complete information otherwise required. When goods are released on minimum documentation, the importer or broker must present or transmit confirming accounting data within five full business days from the date the goods are released.
Further information regarding Customs' release systems and procedures, duties, tariff classifications and taxes may be obtained from local Canada Border Services Agency offices or from the Customs Automated Information System, which can be accessed toll free in Canada at 1-800-461-9999.
Also available from Canada Border Services Agency is the publication, Guide to Importing Commercial Goods.
Canadian Food Inspection Agency's Automated Import System (CFIA-AIS, AIRS, ITS)
AIS (Automated Import System)
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency's new Automated Import System (CFIA-AIS) is a computerized system for the management of all imported products regulated by the Agency. This program is designed to speed up the importation of CFIA goods at the border, which often have additional specific import requirements. It also allows inspectors to focus on high risk commodities.
The CFIA-AIS interfaces electronically with the Canada Border Services Agency and links the two agencies into an electronic, single-window of service.
The program is comprised of various modules that work together as an information provision system and a tracking system.
AIRS (Automated Import Reference System)
The Automated Import Reference System (http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/imp/airse.shtml) is a comprehensive reference system that provides detailed information on import requirements for all Canadian Food Inspection Agency commodities.
ITS (Import Tracking System)
The Import Tracking System (ITS) enables Canadian Food Inspection Agency personnel to trace shipments from the point of arrival to their final destination. It allows for effective scheduling of inland inspections and monitoring of import activities.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) monitors the international trade of endangered species through an international permit system. (See Section B: Environment Canada, and Section E: Wildlife.)
A CITES permit (import or export) must be an original document. Photocopies (except in the case of artificially-propagated plants and circus animals) and fax copies of permits are not accepted as alternatives to original documents. Permits must be obtained prior to shipment; those issued after an exportation or importation has occurred cannot be accepted as valid documents.
Foreign CITES export permits must be presented to Customs at the time of import, for Customs validation. Customs will retain the validated copy and forward it to the Canadian CITES Management Authority in Ottawa.
All live wildlife must be exported or imported according to International Air Transport Association (IATA) Live Animals Regulations and CITES Guidelines for Transport.
Further information on import requirements of CITES listed wildlife may be found on Environment Canada's Website at : http://www.cites.ec.gc.ca
SECTION G - Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs)
This section pertains to agricultural goods included on the Import Control List (ICL), under the authority of the Export and Import Permits Act (EIPA). In order to implement specific Canadian commitments under the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Agriculture, Canada replaced such measures as import quotas and other restrictions on the import of certain agricultural products with Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs). Under tariff rate quotas, imports are subject to low "within access commitment" tariff rates up to a predetermined limit (i.e. until the import access quantity has been reached), while imports over this limit are subject to higher "over access commitment" rates of duty. Under section 6.2 of the (EIPA), the Minister may: a) determine an import access quantity allowed entry at the low tariff rate, b) establish a method of allocating the import access quantity, and c) issue an import allocation to any resident of Canada who applies for an allocation, subject to the regulations and any terms and conditions the Minister may specify in the allocation.
First-Come, First-Served (FCFS) TRQs
The Department of International Trade (ITCan), along with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), administers FCFS TRQs for margarine, wheat, wheat products, barley, barley products, cut roses from Israel, and frozen pork from the European Union (EU).
In the case of these TRQs, import quota allocations are not issued to individual companies. For wheat, barley and their products, as well as cut roses from Israel, importers may invoke a general import permit (GIP) until such time as the TRQ has been filled. GIPs authorize importation of goods at the within-access tariff rate.
For margarine and frozen pork from the EU, a specific import permit issued by ITCan is required for each import shipment entered at the within-access tariff rate.
For certain agricultural products (e.g. dry onions and fresh strawberries from Chile; certain agricultural products from Mexico such as roses, carnations, chrysanthemums, tomatoes, onions or shallots, cucumbers and gherkins, broccoli and cauliflower, strawberries, and preserved tomatoes), FCFS TRQs are administered by CBSA. For these products, no GIP exists but the FCFS quota system operates in a similar manner.
Canada Border Services Agency's (CBSA) responsibility for FCFS TRQ goods includes monitoring their importation and counting all imports of within-quota TRQ goods. CBSA makes this information available to the public, including the amount of quota used and the amount still available. For more information on CBSA's role in the administration of TRQs, please contact the Customs and Trade Administration Branch, CBSA, at the address shown in Appendix III. CBSA also publishes a numbered series of memoranda (D10-18-1, D10-18-5, D10-18-6, D10-18-7, D10-18-8 and D10-18-9), which explain TRQs-related practices and procedures, including any changes or new agreements in this area.
TRQs Subject to Allocations
ITCan also administers TRQs for broiler hatching eggs and chicks, chicken, turkey, eggs and egg products, non-NAFTA beef and veal, cheese, butter, milk and cream, buttermilk, yogurt, ice cream, and other dairy products.
In order to import the above goods at the within-access rate of duty, importers must have a specific import permit issued by the Minister for International Trade. Such import permits are issued pursuant to import allocations to Canadian-residents.
On behalf of the Minister of International Trade, ITCan's Export and Import Controls Bureau is responsible for allocating import quotas to individual Canadian-residents and for issuing the specific import permits pursuant to these allocations. For more information on quota allocations and import permits for agricultural goods covered by TRQs, please contact the Export and Import Controls Bureau, ITCan at the address listed in Appendix III.
The following documents are available from the Department of International Trade. (See Appendix III for contact information):
- the Export and Import Permits Act,
- the Import Control List, and
- Notices to Importers providing details on the administration of TRQs.
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