Regulatory requirements: Fish

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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1.0 Introduction

While the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) include a set of general requirements that apply to a broad range of foods, there are some requirements that apply to a broad range of foods. The following provides an overview of the regulatory requirements specific to fish found in Part 6, Division 5 of the SFCR.

2.0 Application of the requirements specific to fish

The requirements specific to fish in Part 6, Division 5 of the SFCR apply to fish products that

3.0 Fish not permitted for import

Safe Food for Canadians Regulations: Section 105

Rationale

Freshwater mitten crab of the genus Eriocheir is the first intermediate host for the lung fluke parasite (Paragonimus westermani), which can infect humans. To reduce the risk of injury to human health, the import of live freshwater mitten crab into Canada is not permitted.

Puffer fish of the family Tetraodontidae contain the highly toxic neurotoxin tetrodotoxin in some of their organs, such as the liver and skin. During preparation, the flesh of the fish can be contaminated with the toxin and become lethal if consumed. To reduce the risk of injury to human health, the import of puffer fish into Canada is not permitted.

What this means for your food business

To help you understand these requirements, a specific criterion is outlined below. In addition, key terms throughout the text have been hyperlinked to the SFCR glossary.

  • For additional information on requirements for importing fish refer to Food imports.

Section 105: Fish not permitted for import

  • You do not import live freshwater mitten crab of the genus Eriocheir or puffer fish of the family Tetraodontidae, including for personal use.

4.0 Import of live or raw shellfish

Safe Food for Canadians Regulations: Section 106

Rationale

Bivalve molluscan shellfish such as mussels, oysters and clams feed on food particles from the environment by filtering large volumes of water. As filter-feeders, they can accumulate microbiological pathogens, viruses, marine toxins and chemical contaminants in their tissues if their environment is polluted. Although these contaminants are harmless to them, they can present a risk of injury to human health if the shellfish is consumed. This is especially a concern when the shellfish are eaten live/raw.

Identification and monitoring of the growing and harvesting areas and proper handling are crucial in controlling hazards and ensuring the safety of bivalve molluscs. These controls need to be applied in the country of harvest so it is critical that the import of shellfish be restricted to countries whose food safety system for shellfish has been evaluated and recognized as providing at least the same level of protection as the Canadian inspection system for shellfish.

Control of hazards is also critical within any establishment that manufactures, prepares, stores, packages or labels the shellfish. For this reason, live or raw shellfish may only be sent to Canada if they come from establishments that meet the requirements of the recognized foreign food safety system.

Live geoducks (a saltwater clam), scallops and scallops with roe attached can only be imported from approved countries and establishments; however, there are some exceptions:

  • The meat of scallops (adductor muscle) - marine biotoxins concentrate in the viscera and roe, which are removed.
  • The meat of geoducks - marine toxins accumulate only in the digestive gland, which is removed.

Additionally, the meat of both geoducks and scallops are normally cooked prior to consumption, which reduces the risk posed by microbial contamination.

What this means for your food business

To help you understand these requirements, specific criteria and examples are outlined below. The examples are not exhaustive but help illustrate the intent of the requirement and offer examples of what you could do to comply. In addition, key terms throughout the text have been hyperlinked to the SFCR glossary.

Section 106: Import of live or raw shellfish

  • With the exception of the meat of scallops (adductor muscle) and the meat of geoducks, you can only import live or raw (frozen or fresh) shellfish if they have been:
    • harvested, manufactured, prepared, stored, packaged or labelled in a country whose system of inspection for the shellfish species being imported was recognized by the CFIA as providing at least the same level of protection as the Canadian system at the time the activities were conducted
    • imported from a country whose inspection system for the shellfish being imported was recognized by the CFIA as providing at least the same level of protection as the Canadian system at the time of the import
    • manufactured, prepared, stored, packaged or labelled in an establishment that met the requirements of the recognized foreign inspection system at the time the activity was conducted and at the time of the import

Keep in mind

  • The CFIA uses a process consistent with international standards to determine whether a foreign country's inspection system for shellfish should be recognized as equivalent to Canada's system.
  • The CFIA website offers a list of countries whose inspection system for shellfish has been recognized by the CFIA, along with the species and shippers/establishments authorized under the recognition system.
  • For additional information on importing fish and seafood products, refer to Food imports.

5.0 Shellfish

Safe Food for Canadians Regulations: Section 107

Rationale

As noted in Section 4.0, bivalve molluscan shellfish are filter-feeders and they can accumulate contaminants in their tissues, presenting a risk of injury to human health if the shellfish is consumed. The Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program (CSSP) is a federal food safety program developed to protect Canadians from the health risks associated with the consumption of contaminated bivalve molluscan shellfish.

What this means for your food business

To help you understand this requirement, specific criteria and examples are outlined below. The examples are not exhaustive but help illustrate the intent of the requirement and offer examples of what you could do to comply. For more best practices on how to comply, guidance materials have been hyperlinked in the example box. In addition, key terms throughout the text have been hyperlinked to the SFCR glossary.

Section 107: Preparation of shellfish for interprovincial trade or export

  • If you are a licence holder who manufactures, prepares, stores, packages or labels shellfish for export or to send or convey them from one province or territory to another, the shellfish are harvested in an area that
    • has been classified under CSSP and was not prohibited for fishing at the time of harvest by the Management of Contaminated Fisheries Regulations; or
    • was prohibited for fishing at the time of harvest by the Management of Contaminated Fisheries Regulations; however, you decontaminated the shellfish according to an approved decontamination plan or you verified that shellfish were decontaminated properly by a person or a business with a valid Management of Contaminated Fisheries Regulations licence and approved decontamination plan

Examples:

  • You assess each incoming lot of bivalve shellfish to ensure it was harvested from a CSSP acceptable area (i.e. approved, conditionally approved or acceptable offshore area in open status).
  • If you would like to harvest shellfish from a contaminated area, contact the Fisheries and Oceans Canada office in your region. They issue shellfish licenses to harvest contaminated shellfish for decontamination purposes under the Management of Contaminated Fisheries Regulations.
  • Common methods of shellfish decontamination include relaying and depuration. Other methods include thermal processing using a validated process.
  • For additional information on shellfish decontamination refer to:

6.0 Frozen fish

Safe Food for Canadians Regulations: Section 108

Rationale

Dehydration and oxidation of frozen fish stored on a conveyance can result in quality degradation of the fish product. Dehydration occurs when moisture is lost from the frozen fish. It can change the appearance of the fish and cause it to become tough, dry and less flavourful. Oxidation occurs when the surrounding oxygen reacts with the oil in fish resulting in the degradation of the oil. Oxidation can lead to rancidity in the fish which can give the fish undesirable flavour, colour and texture. Dehydration and oxidation can make the fish inedible. Frozen fish can be protected against dehydration and oxidation to preserve its quality.

What this means for your food business

To help you understand this requirement, specific criteria and examples are outlined below. The examples are not exhaustive but help illustrate the intent of the requirement and offer examples of what you could do to comply. In addition, key terms throughout the text have been hyperlinked to the SFCR glossary.

Section 108: Storage of frozen fish on a conveyance

Examples:

  • Common methods you can use to prevent the dehydration and oxidation process of frozen fish in storage include:
    • using appropriate packaging materials to pack the fish; or
    • glazing the fish; or
    • controlling the relative humidity of the storage room; or
    • using a combination of the above methods
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