Fertilizer Program Overview

Program Description and Mandate

Fertilizers (plant nutrients) and supplements (products other than fertilizers that improve the physical condition of the soil or aid plant growth and crop yield) when imported and sold in Canada are regulated by the Canadian Food inspection Agency under the Fertilizers Act and Fertilizers Regulations.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) administers a number of Acts and Regulations that, together, are designed to safeguard our food supply, protect the health of animals and plants and enhance the well-being of Canada's people, environment and economy. Fertilizers (substances containing plant nutrients) and supplements (substances other than fertilizers, intended to improve the physical condition of soils, or aid plant growth or crop yields) imported into or sold in Canada are regulated by the CFIA under the authority of the federal Fertilizers Act and Regulations.

What does the mandate of the CFIA's Fertilizer Program cover?

The Fertilizers Act and Regulations requires that all regulated fertilizer and supplement products must be safe for humans, plants, animals, and the environment. They must also be properly labelled to ensure safe and appropriate use. The mandate of the CFIA's Fertilizer Program covers a wide range of products sold for agricultural, commercial, and home and garden purposes. Regulated products include farm fertilizers, micronutrients, lawn and garden products as well as supplements such as water holding polymers, microbial inoculants, plant growth regulators, liming materials, and waste-derived materials such as composts and municipal biosolids. All fertilizers and supplements that are imported or sold in Canada are regulated by the CFIA. The manufacture, proper use and safe disposal of these products are controlled by provincial and municipal rules and regulations. The CFIA works together with provinces and municipalities to ensure that all fertilizers and supplements meet the highest standards for safety.

Some fertilizers and most supplements are subject to registration and require a comprehensive pre-market assessment prior to their import or sale in Canada. Products that are exempt from registration are still subject to regulation and must meet all the prescribed standards at the time of sale or import. Companies that manufacture or import these products may approach the CFIA and request a voluntary pre-market assessment to verify that their products meet the requirements.

What is a pre-market assessment?

The CFIA's pre-market assessment consists of a detailed, science-based evaluation of product safety information and labelling. These assessments focus on evaluation of product safety towards humans, plants, animals and the environment. To assess a product, the Agency requires that supporting information, which varies in scope depending on the nature of the product, is submitted. The basic supporting information includes the product label, the manufacturing method, and a complete list of ingredients and source materials. For certain products, additional information, such as a detailed description of the physical and chemical properties of each ingredient, results of analytical tests that show freedom from biological and chemical contaminants, or a toxicological data package derived from either laboratory studies or scientific publications, may be required.

Who carries out safety assessments?

Safety assessments are conducted by a team of highly qualified and trained evaluators. Safety evaluators examine all ingredients in a fertilizer or supplement including the active components as well as the formulants, carriers, additives, potential contaminants and by-products that might be released into the environment as a result of product's use and application to soil. The CFIA examines unintended and potentially adverse effects of the application of the product. This includes bystander and worker exposure (e.g. retailer, farmer, home owner), safety of food crops grown on land that has been treated with the product, impacts on animals and plants other than the target crop species, and ecosystem effects including impact on soil, biodiversity, leaching to waterways, etc.

How are labels verified?

All products submitted to the CFIA for registration or approval undergo a thorough label verification to ensure that displayed information is in compliance with the standards prescribed by the Fertilizers Act and Regulations. Evaluators verify that requisite information, such as guaranteed analysis, directions for use, company/manufacturer contact information, appropriate units of measurement, and mandatory cautionary statements, correctly appear and are clearly legible on the label.

In addition to pre-market assessments, what else does the CFIA do to ensure compliance?

The CFIA also monitors fertilizer and supplement products that are already available in the marketplace to verify their compliance with the prescribed standards. Across the country, CFIA inspectors visit facilities, sample products and review labels. These efforts are focused on verifying that products satisfy the safety standards for biological and chemical contaminants (pathogens, heavy metals, pesticide residues, etc.). Products found to be non-compliant are subject to regulatory action, which may include product detention (stop sale) and, in severe cases, prosecution.

Index of Trade Memoranda

The Fertilizer Trade Memoranda contain information on regulatory requirements for fertilizers and supplements regulated under the Fertilizers Act.

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