General export requirements

Although the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) came into force on January 15, 2019, other requirements will be introduced in 2020 and 2021 based on food commodity, type of activity and business size. For more information, refer to the SFCR timelines.

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Introduction

Food exports, including their preparation and packaging, are subject to Canadian acts and regulations. Exporters must meet the following basic requirements to be eligible to export products from Canada:

  • Valid licence or registration (as applicable)
  • Food has been prepared under a food safety preventive control plan (PCP)
  • Food meets Canadian requirements for:
    • food safety
    • grades and standards
    • labelling
    • packaging and containers
  • Fees paid for inspection and certification for the purpose of export

Please make note of export exemptions, and food taken abroad for personal use or consumption or as trade show samples. It should also be noted that an imported meat product which is further processed in Canada is considered a Canadian product. Such a product may be certified for export unless specific requirements of the importing country prohibit this.

Besides meeting Canadian standards, most food, food commodities and food-related products exported from Canada must comply with additional requirements set by destination countries or markets. The particular requirements you need to comply with differ depending on the product you export and the destination country. Exporters are also responsible for knowing about the requirements related to animal health (see Animals) and plant protection (see Plants). The known requirements for various countries are located in the Export requirements library.

Legislation

With the coming-into-force of the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) on January 15th, 2019, certain acts and regulations are repealed. For information on the current Canadian acts and regulations that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) enforces please visit Acts and Regulations.

Licensing and registration

To find out how you apply for a licence or registration, use the CFIA guidance found on the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations webpage. Parties exporting food solely under the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations (see Food and Drugs Act and Food and Drug Regulations) are currently not being licenced or registered by the CFIA.

Food safety preventive control plan (PCP)

To find out more on the preventive controls relevant to the processing and exporting activities related to your food, please see the CFIA guidance found on the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations webpage. Examples of preventive control plans (PCPs) under existing food programs include Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan, Quality Management Program (QMP), Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), etc.

As part of your preventive control plan (PCP), or in addition to it, you need to have controls in place for the export documents and information relating to your shipments.

Canadian requirements

A basic requirement is that food is prepared under sanitary conditions according to Canadian regulations. A food product prepared for export could be exempt from non-food safety related Canadian requirements. This situation may require an exemption or permit from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Please contact your CFIA area or regional office.

It is not acceptable to export products that do not meet Canadian regulations if there are no regulatory requirements in the destination country. The CFIA has a responsibility to protect consumers of Canadian foods by verifying that products are safe and are not fraudulent.

Fees

Familiarize yourself with any CFIA fees you may be required to pay as per the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Fees Notice.

Exemptions

Exporters who only export food (other than meat and fish products) to countries that do not require certification may not be required to be licensed or registered. They would still have to meet the food safety requirements of the commodity specific regulations (when applicable) and the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations (see Food and Drugs Act and Food and Drug Regulations).

Travellers going abroad

If you are travelling overseas and carry food products intended for later personal use or consumption, you are not considered an exporter and do not need to be licensed. But the food you carry is still subject to the import requirements of the foreign country.

Taking trade samples overseas

You may need to meet export requirements if you take trade or research samples to other countries. These are normally defined in the foreign country requirements for the countries or markets the samples are intended for.

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Other further reading

Certain foods may require certification related to animal health (aquatic or terrestrial) or plant health. Information on animal and plant health certification requirements can be found at the following web addresses:

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