Importation of food and plant products for trade shows and exhibitions in Canada

1. Basic guidelines

Food and horticultural products are subject to strict import controls in Canada. However, there are some exemptions for small amounts of product intended only for sampling or other free distribution during a trade show, exhibition or similar event.

If this situation applies to you, check this guide for an informal outline of related requirements. Then, for specific details on permits and other documentation, consult CFIA's Automated Import Reference System (AIRS). Required permissions and permits would be coordinated through CFIA's Centre of Administration. Finally, if you have questions about the process, contact an import coordinator at the CFIA Area Office closest to the event you plan to attend, or the CFIA National Import Service Centre.

Note that any required permit or authorization should be obtained as early as possible before the planned import - at least six weeks prior to the event. In some cases, an import broker may be contracted to assist exhibitors with such arrangements.

Some additional guidelines:

Documentation: All accompanying documentation must be in English or French. For products requiring proof of origin certification, see Memorandum D11-4-2 for more information.

Novel or high-risk products: Animal or plant products that are new to the Canadian market will require a product assessment, so relevant information should be forwarded to the appropriate commodity program at least a few weeks earlier than necessary. High risk products (i.e. dairy products) for event use may either be imported under the same Animal Import/Export requirements as a commercial shipment, or with an animal health import permit.

Regulatory changes: Changes to these requirements may occur at any time, owing to events or regulatory changes in your country or Canada. While the CFIA will contact any permit holders in such an event, you should re-confirm that you have met all current requirements prior to shipping any products.

Product safety: You and/or your importer or legal representative are responsible for the safety of any products offered for sampling during a Canadian event. They must be transported, stored and displayed in a way that prevents deterioration or contamination. Health and safety inspections may be conducted at any time by CFIA representatives, with unsafe or infested products returned to their place of origin or destroyed under CFIA supervision - at the importer's expense.

Sales and distribution ban: These regulatory exemptions apply only to products being distributed without charge during trade shows or exhibitions. Sales at the event, or distribution outside the event (for example, food banks), is strictly forbidden without prior CFIA authorization.

2. Aquatic animals (such as, fish, shellfish, other seafood)

Definition:

The Health of Animals Regulations define aquatic animals to include "means any finfish, mollusc or crustacean, or any part of a finfish, mollusc or crustacean at any life stage, as well as any germplasm of those animals"

The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations define "fish" to include shellfish, crustaceans and other marine animals, and any of their parts, products and by-products. The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations define "shellfish" as meaning a bivalve mollusc of the class Bivalvia or a carnivorous marine mollusc of the class Gastropoda, or any product that is derived from one of those molluscs.

Aquatic animals including fish and shellfish may require either an aquatic animal health import permit, zoosanitary export certificate from the country of export, and/or a Safe Food for Canadians (SFC) licence. Consult AIRS.

Food safety requirements for fish products

  • 100 kg or less: no SFC licence required
  • More than 100 kg: an SFC licence is required.

Live or raw molluscs and shellfish, whether frozen or unfrozen, must be harvested, handled and processed in a manner which ensures they are safe for human consumption. Refer to the Importing live and raw molluscs and shellfish page.

Aquatic animal health import requirements

The Aquatic Animal Health Import Program regulates finfish, molluscs and crustaceans. It does not regulate other aquatic species such as marine mammals, other aquatic invertebrates and aquatic plants. This includes any finfish, mollusc or crustacean, or any part of a finfish, mollusc or crustacean at any life stage, as well as any germplasm of those animals. If the species to be imported is listed as a Susceptible Species of Aquatic Animal, then an aquatic animal health import permit and zoosanitary export certificate from the country of export will be required.

Aquatic Animal Importation
Application for Permit to Import Aquatic Animals and/or their Offal (CFIA/ACIA 5670)

3. Dairy products

Imported dairy products must comply with both public health requirements under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations and animal health requirements under the Health of Animals Regulations.

Definition: The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations define "dairy product" as meaning milk or a food that is derived from milk, alone or combined with another food, and that contains no oil and no fat other than that of milk

The Health of Animals Regulations define "milk" as: the lacteal secretion obtained from the mammary gland of any ruminant, in concentrated, dried, frozen, reconstituted or fresh form, and "milk product" as any of the following, namely, partly-skimmed milk, skim milk, cream, butter, buttermilk, butter oil, whey, whey butter or whey cream, in concentrated, dried, frozen or reconstituted or fresh form, but does not include milk proteins, milk sugars and milk enzymes.

Maximum quantity: 100 kg

From the United States

  • proof of origin

From other countries

  • for countries with an animal disease status that has been recognized by the CFIA, a Zoosanitary Export Certificate issued by an official certifying body of the exporting country, in English or French, is required. A list of these countries may be found at Animal Health Status by Country. The certificate must describe the product and country of origin for countries recognized free of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), and the details of which CFIA approved treatment the product has undergone for countries not recognized free of FMD
  • for countries that do not have a recognized animal disease status, an animal health import permit is required

Permit Application

4. Eggs and processed egg products

Imported eggs and processed egg products must comply with both public health requirements under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations and animal health requirements under the Health of Animals Regulations.

Definition: The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations define "egg" as meaning an egg of a domestic chicken of the species Gallus domesticus or, in respect of a processed egg product, means that egg or an egg of a domestic turkey of the species Meleagris gallopavo. It does not include a balut.

The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations define "processed egg product" as meaning a food for which a standard is set out in Volume 2 of the Standards of Identity Document.

The Health of Animals Regulations do not specify the species of origin for eggs, so animal health requirements apply to eggs from any species of bird and also apply to balut. An "egg product" is defined as whole egg, egg shells, egg yolk, egg albumen or any mix of these, in a liquid, dried, frozen or fresh form.

Maximum quantity: 5 cases (5 × 30 dozen) of shell eggs, or 100 kg of processed eggs.

From the United States

  • Proof of origin (for example, customs invoice)

From other countries

  • for countries with an animal disease status that has been recognized by the CFIA, a Zoosanitary Export Certificate issued by an official of the exporting country, in English or French, is required. A list of these countries may be found at Animal Health Status by Country. The certificate must describe the product and country of origin for countries recognized free of Notifiable Avian Influenza (NAI) and Newcastle Disease (ND), and the details of which CFIA approved treatment the product has undergone for countries not recognized free of NAI and ND
  • for countries that do not have a recognized animal disease status, an animal health import permit is required

Permit Application

5. Potentially injurious organisms (other than plants)

Definition: Potentially injurious organisms (other than plants), which are or may be plant pests, may be contaminated with plant pests, or are shipped with host material that is or may be a plant pest or contaminated with a plant pest. These include organisms such as invertebrates (e.g. insects, mites, earthworms, snails, slugs) and micro-organisms (e.g. bacteria, fungi, viruses).

Import conditions for potentially injurious organisms are based on the plant health risk they present to Canada. Some potentially injurious organisms may only be imported under containment, and cannot be released into the environment. These organisms can only be imported for specific end uses, including for exhibition/display purposes.

Importers must submit an application for an import permit to the CFIA's Plant Health Permit Office. Applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine if a permit is required, and whether additional import conditions (e.g., shipping, containment) are needed to mitigate plant health risks.

Plant Importation
Application for Permit to Import Plants and Other Things under the Plant Protection Act (CFIA/ACIA 5256)

6. Meat products

Imported meat products must comply with both public health requirements under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations and animal health requirements under the Health of Animals Regulations.

Definition: The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations define "meat product" as meaning "the carcass of a food animal, the blood of a food animal or a product or by-product of its carcass or any food that contains the blood of a food animal or a product or by-product of its carcass. It does not include:

  1. gelatin, bone meal, collagen casing, hydrolyzed animal protein, monoglycerides, diglycerides or fatty acids; or
  2. any food that contains a meat product in an insignificant quantity, having regard to the nature of the food and of the meat product"

The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations define "food animal" as meaning "a bird or mammal, other than a marine mammal, from which an edible meat product may be derived.

Under the Health of Animals Regulations, meat is considered to be an animal by-product and import conditions for animal by-products apply. All foods containing meat are subject to animal health requirements including those that are exempt from the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations.

From the United States

  • 100 kg or less of meat products other than beef: proof of origin; outer carton marked "Sample - not for sale".
  • 100 kg or less of beef products: Official meat inspection certificate (FSIS 9135-3) issued by a USDA veterinarian with required BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) statements.

From other countries

  • 100 kg or less of any meat product:
    • eligibility depends on country of origin, species of meat product, and level of processing (i.e. cooked vs raw)
    • for countries recognized by the CFIA as free of diseases of concern for the species of origin, a Zoosanitary Export Certificate, in English or French, is required. The certificate must describe the product and country of origin
    • for countries not recognized free of diseases of concern for the species of origin and countries that do not have a recognized animal disease status, an animal health import permit is required
    • a Zoosanitary Export Certificate including details of which CFIA approved treatment the product has undergone may also be required

Permit Application

7. Manufactured foods (for example, baked goods, baby food, alcohol, etc.)

Definition: a wide range of products, including infant foods, alcoholic beverages, bakery products, and cereal products.

All products must meet appropriate testing and safety specifications allergens, microbiological, chemical or other risks (such as, pesticides, heavy metal, non-permitted colours).

Import control of alcoholic beverages is performed by provincial and territorial liquor control boards. Please refer to our Alcoholic Beverages page.

8. Pet food

Definition: pet foods may include commercially prepared foods (such as, wet or dry shelf-stable products), raw pet food (such as, for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or BARF diets), pet treats (for example, rawhide, chews, dried animal ears, bones, hooves, pizzles), supplements (for example, mixtures containing vitamins, minerals, fish oils), and/or commercial samples (such as, for laboratory analysis, feeding trials or display). This includes products destined for companion animals (for example, dogs, cats, birds, fish), exotic pets (for example, reptiles, ferrets, hedgehogs), laboratory animals, or zoo animals.

For samples containing ingredients of animal origin

  • samples meeting the conditions for commercial import may be imported using the same conditions as a commercial shipments
  • samples that do not meet commercial conditions require an import permit and are subject to a case by case evaluation by the CFIA
  • at end of event, must be re-exported to country of origin, or disposed of per permit

Pet Food Policy
Permit Application

9. Plants and plant products

Plant Importation
Application for Permit to Import Plants and Other Things under the Plant Protection Act (CFIA/ACIA 5256)

The person in charge of the event in Canada must apply for an import permit to the CFIA permit office. The application must specify the scientific and common names and precise origin of each plant.

a. Fresh fruits and vegetables

Definition: The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations define "fresh fruits or vegetables" as meaning any fresh plant or any fresh edible fungus, or any part of such a plant or fungus, that is a food is considered to be a fresh fruit or vegetable.

Products imported for a national or an international exhibition, are exempt if the shipment weighs 100 kg or less and is not for sale.

A permit to import and a phytosanitary certificate may be required depending on the origin and nature of the product.

No import permit is required for tropical fruits, but fruits grown in temperate regions are subject to evaluation, and the importer must apply for a permit.

b. Potatoes

Definition: The Fresh Fruits or Vegetables requirements in Part 6, Division 6 of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) define "potato" as meaning a fresh potato for which a grade is prescribed by these Regulations.

Exhibitors must always apply for an import permit. Products imported for a national or an international exhibition, are exempt if the shipment weighs 100 kg or less and is not for sale.

The importation of potatoes from countries other than the continental United States is prohibited.

c. Processed fruits and vegetables, honey and maple products

Definition: The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations define "processed fruit or vegetable product" as meaning a food

  1. for which a standard is set out in Volume 4 of the Standards of Identity Document
  2. for which a grade is set out in Volume 3 of the Compendium
  3. that is set out in column 1 of Table 3 of Schedule 3 in items 2 to 11 or in column 1 of Table 4, 5 or 6 of that Schedule; or
  4. to which Division 3 of Part 10 applies

The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations define "maple product" as meaning a food that is obtained exclusively by the concentration of sap from trees of the genus Acer or the concentration of maple syrup.

Products imported for a national or an international exhibition are exempt if the shipment weighs 100 kg or less and is not for sale.

d. Seeds, grains, forages and grain products

Seeds, grains, forages and grain products can present a plant health risk to Canadian agricultural and forestry resources, acting as a pathway for the movement of pests.

Exhibitors must apply for a permit to evaluate the phytosanitary risk associated with the import.

Some commodities may be prohibited, require treatment, or be otherwise regulated, which will be identified when evaluating the permit application.

Import of Tree and Shrub Seed into Canada
ABCs of Seed Importation into Canada

e. Wood and wood items

Wood and wood items, including bark, from all areas of the world must apply and obtain an import permit before entering Canada.

Application for Permit to Import Plants and Other Things under the Plant Protection Act (CFIA/ACIA 5256)
Import process

Note: packaging materials such as crates, boxes, pallets, bracing etc. made of solid wood, from all areas of the word except the continental United States, must be treated to meet Canadian import requirements. The use of untreated wood packaging materials will result in the refusal of entry into Canada. Please refer to the Entry Requirements for Wood Packaging Material into Canada.

Appendix 1: Other government department requirements

In Canada, while food and horticultural imports are mainly regulated by the CFIA, other departments have related responsibilities.

The importer is solely responsible for ensuring your products meet all Canadian import requirements.

Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA)

CBSA collects customs and excise duties, and performs initial border control.

Global Affairs Canada

The Trade Controls Bureau issues permits to import certain commodities, without which you may pay higher customs tariffs, under the authority of the Export and Import Permits Act. The following agricultural products are accordingly subject to additional controls:

Environment Canada (EC)

Some commodities are regulated by Environment Canada (EC), under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This international agreement allows more than 160 countries to exercise control over the import and export of more than 30,000 plant and animal species and their derivatives listed in one of the three appendixes of the Convention.

Appendix I lists the most endangered species for which international trade is not permitted. Canadian regulation forbids all trade activities including sale, distribution or promotion of these species or their derivatives unless the product is subject to a specific exemption. Appendix II and III list the species that are permitted to be traded internationally where a CITES export permit has been issued by the CITES Management Authority of the foreign country.

A CITES permit must be obtained prior to export, and is valid only for one use unless otherwise indicated. An export permit from the Canadian authority is required in order to return the merchandise to the country of origin.

Appendix 2: Centre of Administration (CoA)

The Centre of Administration (CoA) delivers and/or coordinates the full range of operational administrative services required for domestic and import related permissions. This includes licences, permits, and registration, excluding export certification activities.

The CoA is stakeholders' point of contact for all non-technical questions about CFIA issued permissions, which includes checking the status of an application, and seeking administrative guidance to complete an application or renewal for any of the services provided under "Permission".

Please contact the Centre of Administration for administrative permission-related inquiries:

Appendix 3: CFIA National Import Service Centre (NISC)

The National Import Service Centre processes import request documentation / data sent by the importing community across Canada. Staff reviews the information and return the decision electronically to the CBSA, which then relays it to the client or the broker/importer.

In addition, NISC staff handles telephone inquiries regarding import requirements for all commodities regulated by the CFIA and, when necessary, coordinate inspections for import shipments.

Phone:
1-800-835-4486 (Canada or U.S.A.)
289-247-4099 (local calls and all other countries)

Web: CFIA National Import Service Centre

Facsimile: 613-773-9999

Appendix 4: CFIA Area Offices (Area Import Coordinators)

West (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Territories)
4321 Still Creek Drive
Burnaby, BC V5C 6S7
604-292-5725

Ontario
1050 Courtney Park Drive East
Mississauga, ON L5T 2R4
289-247-4051

Quebec
2001 Robert-Bourassa Boulevard, Suite 671-X
Montreal, QC H3A 3N2
514-283-3815

Atlantic (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland)
1081 Main Street
P.O. Box 6088
Moncton, NB E1C 8R2
506-777-3923

Appendix 5: Event commodity importer checklist

  • Confirm which category your products are classified in.
  • Check this guide for a snapshot of import requirements.
  • Consult Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) for specific details and requirements.
  • Coordinate any required permissions and permits through CFIA's Centre of Administration.
  • Confirm if you need to contact another department for a permit or special licence.
  • Contact the Program representative for your commodity in the CFIA Area Office closest to the event, or the CFIA National Import Service Centre with any questions.
  • Make sure you or your representative submits any required applications at least two or three months before the event.
  • Ensure all products and their exact weight are included on declarations and invoices submitted to Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and CFIA.
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