Language selection


Compliance and Enforcement Operational Policy

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

In light of the rising rate of globalization, technological advancements, the increased potential of animal and plant disease and the heightened risks associated with food processing, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has revised its 1999 Enforcement and Compliance Policy to reflect the CFIA's current practices and protocols with respect to enforcing its legislation and for enhancing and improving compliance through enforcement activities, consistent with the Government of Canada's priorities.

The Compliance and Enforcement Policy outlines the CFIA's approach to its compliance management activities, ranging from assisting regulated parties in understanding their obligations to comply with legislative requirements; and extends to monitoring compliance, performing inspection activities; to the various tools available to the CFIA to respond to non-compliance.

Consumers want a reliable and credible food inspection system on which they can depend to provide safe food, consumer protection and market access. There is a public expectation that contraventions of the law will be met with meaningful and appropriate enforcement and compliance action. 

The result is a comprehensive compliance and enforcement operational policy that is aimed at consistency and effectiveness, and establishes the roles and responsibilities of the CFIA officials responsible for enforcing and administering the CFIA's legislation.

1.0 Introduction

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is dedicated to safeguarding food, animals and plants which enhances the health and well-being of Canada's people, environment and economy. In carrying out this mandate, the CFIA is committed to protecting Canadians from preventable health risks, protecting consumers through a fair and effective regulatory regime, sustaining the plant and animal resource base, and promoting the security of Canada's food supply and agricultural and forestry resource base.

As Canada's largest science-based regulatory enforcement Agency, the CFIA administers and enforces 13 federal Acts and their associated regulations. The CFIA's Compliance and Enforcement Policy is based on the concept of a compliance and enforcement continuum, which includes providing information on and the assessment of compliance as well as responding to non-compliance. This is done through a wide variety of approaches, including communicating with regulated parties; conducting inspection activities; and taking appropriate enforcement actions in responding to non-compliance. 

It is the responsibility of regulated parties to comply with all relevant Agency Acts and regulations. The CFIA takes a risk-based approach to compliance management.  Where compliance with the legislation administered and enforced by the CFIA is not achieved, there is a progression of tools in place to respond to non-compliance. While regulated parties are expected to comply with the legislative requirements, if non-compliance is identified the likely consequences for the regulated parties are clearly identified, predictable and consistently applied. Regulated parties can expect that any non-compliance will be treated seriously by the CFIA and will be dealt with in a professional manner.

The administration and enforcement of CFIA legislation is carried out by CFIA enforcement officials, and officials of other agencies or departments who are designated to enforce CFIA legislation, including the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

This Compliance and Enforcement Policy is intended to describe the CFIA's overall approach to informing regulated parties, assessing and monitoring compliance and responding to instances of non-compliance.  Program-related enforcement strategies and procedures build on the principles and processes identified in this document.

2.0 Guiding Principles

The overarching objective of the Compliance and Enforcement Policy is to detail the CFIA's approach to compliance management. The following general principles guide the CFIA:

3.0 Legislation

The CFIA is responsible for administering and/or enforcing the following Acts and their respective regulations:

4.0 Roles and Functions

The following key officials are responsible for the enforcement of the CFIA's legislation:

Enforcement Officials

Enforcement officials include inspectors, veterinary inspectors, Enforcement and Investigation Services (EIS) Investigation Specialists and officials of other agencies or departments who are designated to enforce CFIA legislation.

Inspectors and Veterinary Inspectors

Inspectors and veterinary inspectors have the following responsibilities, which include:

The powers provided to enforcement officials for the enforcement of CFIA legislation include, but are not limited to, the authority to conduct inspection activities, order the removal of product from Canada, and seize and detain product.  Each Act provides specific inspector powers and authorities.

Investigation Specialists

EIS Investigation Specialists are engaged in investigations for the purposes of gathering evidence that may lead to prosecution or AMPs.  They are trained, and have expertise, in investigation procedures and techniques, including:

CFIA Investigation Specialists have knowledge of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canada Evidence Act, the Criminal Code of Canada and other relevant federal legislation. Moreover, they:

Public Prosecution Service of Canada

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) is responsible for all prosecutions relating to the Acts administered and enforced by the CFIA. Under Part 3 of the Federal Accountability Act, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is given the authority to initiate and conduct prosecutions that fall under the jurisdiction of the Attorney General of Canada (Attorney General). The PPSC provides prosecutorial advice to law enforcement agencies, as well as advice and assistance to investigators at the investigative stage. They work closely with the various law enforcement agencies and take their views into account in considering whether prosecution is warranted.

The DPP has the power to make final and binding decisions on initiating and conducting federal prosecutions, except where the Attorney General directs otherwise. Any such intervention must be in writing and published in the Canada Gazette.  When deciding whether to prosecute, the DPP must consider two issues: first, is the evidence sufficient to justify the commencement or continuation of proceedings.  Second, if it is, does the public interest warrant a prosecution to be pursued.

Other CFIA Officials

Analysts and graders provide support on which decisions made by the above mentioned are in part based.


CFIA Analysts are responsible for the following:


CFIA Graders are responsible for assessing the quality attributes and standards of products.

5.0 Differentiating Between Inspection and Investigation

One of the most important distinctions in the enforcement community is conceptualizing the difference between "inspection" and its associated activities and that of "investigation" and its associated activities. The best way to comprehend the difference is to understand these concepts as two different and independent realms.

5.1 Inspection

Inspections are conducted with a predominant purpose of verifying and achieving  compliance with legislation administered and/or enforced by the CFIA.  When conducting inspections, enforcement officials use the authorities provided to them within the legislation under which they are designated. They may include the authority to enter and inspect, open containers, examine regulated products or documents, conduct tests, take samples or seize and detain products. Enforcement officials must verify that all requirements are met in order to determine whether the regulated product is in compliance and take the appropriate steps to manage the non-compliance if legislative requirements are not met.

5.2 Investigation

For the purpose of this policy, where the predominant purpose of an inquiry by a CFIA official is for the determination of penal liability, it is an investigation.

Investigations are carried out by EIS Investigation Specialists whose predominant purpose is to gather and secure evidence that may lead to a recommendation for prosecution or an AMP.  An investigation may involve the following activities: obtaining search warrants, gathering evidence and protecting continuity of evidence; conducting surveillance; interviewing persons who may have relevant information, potential witnesses, or accused persons; and taking statements and soliciting information from witnesses. Investigators have an understanding of Criminal Code of Canada requirements and the Canada Evidence Act and are careful to respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Upon the completion of an investigation, a determination will be made whether to move forward with the issuance of an Administrative Monetary Penalty (AMP) or a recommendation for prosecution or, in some cases, not to pursue further action.

6.0 Compliance and Enforcement Continuum

The CFIA Compliance and Enforcement Policy is based on the concept of a compliance and enforcement continuum, which includes communication with regulated parties and assessment of compliance as well as responding to non-compliance (see Table 1).

Generating Compliance

The CFIA believes communication with regulated parties is an effective tool in generating compliance. Compliance is facilitated when the legislative requirements are clearly identified and accessible to regulated parties. The CFIA provides information to regulated parties and encourages compliance through various communication activities.

Monitoring and Assessing Compliance

The CFIA assesses compliance with legislative requirements through its inspection activities, including audits, compliance verifications, monitoring, surveying, taking samples and conducting laboratory analyses.  The CFIA monitors and assesses the compliance of various things such as: regulated products, establishments/facilities,  regulated parties, records and documents, systems, and related items.  The results of these activities provide feedback to design and redesign, where applicable, programs and related policies to provide an effective and efficient enforcement continuum.

Responding to Non-compliance

Once non-compliance has been determined, the CFIA responds appropriately. Specific responses can be directed at the product and/or the regulated party. There is a range of tools available to the CFIA including, but not limited to, a letter of non-compliance; a mandatory recall order; a refusal to issue or renew licences, registrations or permits; seizure and detention of product; an order to remove the product from Canada; the suspension, revocation or cancellation of licences, registrations or permits; the issuance of administrative monetary penalties (AMP), where applicable; and referral for prosecution.

The CFIA has the flexibility to select the appropriate response based on the gravity of the non-compliance, considering factors such as the potential or actual harm, the compliance history of the regulated party and the intent.

Table 1: Enforcement Continuum
Generating Compliance Monitoring and Assessing Compliance Responding to Non-compliance
  • CFIA Communication (including information material; question and answer sheets; town hall meetings, discussions, consultations with regulated parties.
  • Establish and Implement Mandatory and Voluntary Quality Management Systems
    • Self-Assessments:
      • Correct Deficiencies
  • Inspections
  • Audits
  • Verifications
  • Monitoring
  • Grading
  • Analyses
  • Sampling
  • Feedback
  • Other Related Duties
  • Letter of Non-Compliance
  • Seize and Detain
  • Quarantine
  • Order Removal from Canada
  • Restrict or Prohibit Movement
  • Order Mandatory Recall
  • Dispose or Destroy
  • Refuse to Certify
  • Actions Taken Against Licences or Registrations
  • Notice of Violation (with Warning or Penalty)
  • Recommend Prosecution

*This chart represents some of the responses available to the CFIA. The CFIA will select the most appropriate response to address the non-compliance, taking into account such factors as harm, history and intent.

7.0 Generating Compliance

7.1 Transparency

The CFIA strives for a coordinated, transparent system that is accountable to Canadians, recognizing that the most effective way to obtain compliance is to involve regulated parties during the regulatory and policy development stage.

Transparency efforts extend beyond regulatory and legislative development when the CFIA is developing program-specific policies, consultations with consumers and stakeholders are undertaken to map the path forward. The Agency is committed to transparency, openness and visible accountability in the inspection system.  To these ends, public advisories, recall information and notices related to compliance and enforcement activities are posted on the Agency website.

Moreover, the publication of successful prosecutions and AMPs issued is a useful tool for notifying the public of the compliance status of regulated parties.  The reporting of enforcement actions taken by the CFIA encourages greater compliance and informs the public of any non-compliant activities undertaken by regulated parties. Information protected by the Access to Information Act or the Privacy Act will not be made public.

7.2 Clear and Enforceable Requirements

The CFIA strives to develop new regulatory initiatives that are clear and enforceable. Clearly worded legislative instruments support compliance by making it easier for regulated parties to understand the requirements they must meet.

7.3 Information Tools

Regulated parties have an obligation to understand the requirements of the law.  The CFIA provides information to consumers and regulated parties and encourages compliance through communication.  Compliance management begins with open and transparent communication with all stakeholders.  In order to provide communication and clarification on new or existing initiatives, legislation, policies or procedures, it is recommended that consumers and regulated parties be provided with information and documentation detailing any changes.

Information tools, developed by the applicable Program, can be distributed as part of the overall communications package to assist regulated parties in understanding the necessary information regarding legislative requirements.  The CFIA may use a number of different tools, including consultations, publication of information, awareness campaigns and other initiatives to inform consumers and regulated parties of the legislative and regulatory requirements that must be met.  Examples of information that the CFIA may provide include copies of legislation, fact sheets, and pamphlets.  As well, informal and formal activities may be undertaken by the CFIA in partnership with other government departments and/or consumer and industry groups/associations.

8.0 Monitoring and Assessing Compliance

The CFIA monitors and assesses compliance - understood as "the state of conformity of regulated parties with the law" - through a variety of compliance management activities, which are typically performed by enforcement officials.

8.1 CFIA-Led Compliance Activities

CFIA enforcement officials assess the compliance of regulated parties with legislative requirements through such means as inspections, audits, etc. The results of these activities provide feedback for the design and redesign, where applicable, of programs and related policies to provide an effective and efficient enforcement continuum.

Enforcement officials perform these activities on a variety of things or places for which legislative requirements exist, including:

Established program-specific policies and procedural documents based on regulatory requirements, guide enforcement officials on how to conduct inspection activities and the frequency of such activities. They describe detailed actions respecting the thing or place to be assessed, the assessment criteria to be used and what constitutes compliance. The thing or place may be assessed against legislation, standards, guidelines, policies, codes of practice, etc. 

Inspection results are recorded and communicated to the regulated party and become part of the regulated party's compliance history.  In the event of non-compliance, the inspection report would include the action, if any, that was initiated by the CFIA in response to the non-compliance.

8.2 Regulated Party-Led Compliance Activities

Regulated parties may undertake a number of initiatives to assist in achieving compliance with applicable legislative requirements. This may include operating a voluntary compliance system - such as the On-Farm and Post-Farm Food Safety Programs or the Canadian Partners in Quality (CPIQ).  This could also include operating a mandatory compliance management system - such as a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), or a Quality Management Program (QMP) based system. It should be noted that HACCP may also be adopted voluntarily by regulated parties for commodities for which it is not mandatory.  Both voluntary and mandatory compliance systems permit industry to self-assess and correct deficiencies as they arise.

9.0 Responding to Non-Compliance

When non-compliance with the CFIA's legislation is identified, the most appropriate response to obtain compliance must be determined. In making this determination, the following factors are considered:


This takes into consideration the seriousness of harm or potential harm of the non-compliance; such as the potential impact on human health, the animal or plant resource base or the environment, marketplace deception or product misrepresentation.


The compliance history of the regulated party is considered with respect to the existence of previous instances of non-compliance and the seriousness of past non-compliance.


The CFIA considers the intent of the regulated party to commit a contravention or cause harm, such as evidence that demonstrates the regulated party knowingly contravened the legislative requirements.

In addition, consistency in the enforcement response is considered. The goal is to achieve consistency and predictability in responses to non-compliance. Similar situations or incidents of non-compliance, regardless of where they occurred, will be considered when determining the appropriate enforcement action.

Enforcement Actions

On a day-to-day basis, inspection staff routinely take measures to respond to instances of non-compliance. As the gravity of the non-compliance increases, additional, more stringent enforcement actions may be considered. In these instances, the non-compliance is reported to the inspector's supervisor, and the most appropriate response is determined on a case-by-case basis.

There is a broad range of enforcement tools available to the CFIA. One or more of the actions outlined in this section may be taken in response to non-compliance. This section provides a general description of each action available. It should be noted that the enforcement actions listed below do not apply to all CFIA programs. For more detailed descriptions as they apply to specific programs, consult the applicable legislation and program-related enforcement strategy or procedures.

9.1 Letter of Non-Compliance

A Letter of non-compliance is a procedural administrative action that may be sent to a regulated party when :

9.2 Seizure and Detention

Seizure and detention allows the CFIA to maintain control of a regulated product. Seizure and detention of the products can be maintained until:

This action is considered one of the most expeditious and effective tools to facilitate compliance.

9.3 Hold

Under the Meat Inspection Regulations, holding is used for animals and meat products that are suspected to be non-compliant. These products can be held until a final decision is rendered with respect to their disposition.

9.4 Forfeiture

Forfeiture refers to regulated products that become the property of Her Majesty in Right of Canada.  Product(s) can be ordered forfeited by the Canada Agricultural Review Tribunal or the courts, or a regulated party may voluntarily forfeit the product(s).  Forfeited products will be disposed of as provided for in the Court or Canada Agricultural Review Tribunal Order, or as directed by an enforcement official as provided for in the Acts.  This will generally be at the expense of the person from whom the product was seized.  The requirements for forfeiture will vary depending on the legislation.

9.5 Condemnation

Under the Meat Inspection Regulations, a food animal or meat product may be condemned if it is determined that the product is inedible, i.e. constitutes a health and safety risk or is otherwise unacceptable for human consumption.  Condemned products will be disposed of as provided for under the Meat Inspection Regulations.

9.6 Confiscation

Under the Plant Protection Act, an enforcement official has the authority to confiscate, or take possession of, a plant or thing where they have reasonable grounds to believe the thing is a pest, is or could be infested with a pest or constitutes or could constitute a biological obstacle to the control of a pest. In the case of the Health of Animals Act, it relates to an animal or animal product that poses a disease risk or could pose a disease risk.

9.7 Quarantine

Quarantine is a measure taken to prevent the introduction or spread of a disease or pest in Canada by isolating infected animal, plant or thing.  This action is found under the Health of Animals Act and the Plant Protection Act.  In such circumstances, an enforcement official will issue a quarantine notice in order to prevent the spread of the disease or pest.  The quarantine notice sets out the length of time and conditions during the quarantine period.

9.8 Refuse Entry

Under the Plant Protection Regulations, plants or things that pose a risk to the health and safety of Canada's plant resource base may be refused entry into Canada.  Refusing to allow the entry of imported products into Canada may be appropriate when the plant or thing:

9.9 Order Removal from Canada

Where an enforcement official has reasonable grounds to believe an imported product does not meet Canadian requirements or is imported illegally, the enforcement official may order the product removed from Canada and returned to its country of origin.

9.10 Restrict or Prohibit Movement

The movement of regulated products may be restricted or prohibited into and out of an infested/infected area for a period of time for the purpose of controlling the regulated product and verifying that it meets legislative requirements.

9.11 Recall

Recalling a product is appropriate when there are reasonable grounds to believe the regulated product poses a risk to public, animal or plant health.  Where the regulated party is unwilling or refuses to initiate a recall of the product, a recall order may be issued pursuant to section 19 of the CFIA Act. In these cases, the Minister may issue a notice to the regulated party selling, marketing or distributing the product requiring the regulated party to recall the product.

9.12 Dispose or Destroy

The disposal of a regulated product may be ordered where:

Regulated products that are perishable can be disposed of as provided for under the Canada Agricultural Products Act. Disposal of regulated product may also occur when a seized regulated product has been forfeited or with the consent of the regulated party or person in possession, care or control of the product at the time of its seizure.

9.13 Refuse to Issue Inspection Certificate

Inspection certificates for the purpose of exporting or moving regulated product interprovincially may be required by Canadian legislation, by the requirements of the importing country, or voluntarily requested by the regulated party.  Refusal to certify regulated products may be appropriate when the regulated product fails to meet the requirements of the importing country, or when inspection staff are unable to assess whether or not the regulated product meets the required legislative requirements.  Inspection staff may refuse to issue inspection certificates where it has been determined that the regulated product does not meet the applicable legislative requirements.

9.14 Actions Taken Against Licences, Registrations and Permits

The suspension, cancellation, or revocation of a licence, registration or permit is generally appropriate when the regulated party does not or is unable to comply with the legislative requirements. It should be noted that the requirements for taking actions against licences, registrations and permits vary according to the various pieces of legislation.

9.15 Administrative Monetary Penalties (AMPs), where applicable

The Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act (AMPs Act)and Regulations provide for the issuance of two types of Notices of Violation to regulated parties:  a "Notice of Violation with Warning" and a "Notice of Violation with Penalty".  An AMP ranges from $500 to $1300 for individuals and, $1300 to $10,000 for violations committed during the course of business that result in a financial benefit to the regulated party.  Penalties can be increased by 50 per cent of the original fine based upon the gravity of the violation and the compliance history of the offender.  An offender who commits a very serious violation within five years can be issued a penalty of up to $15,000Footnote 3. Notices of Violation may be issued for violations of the relevant Act or Regulations as set out in Schedule 1 to the Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Regulations.

9.16 Recommendation to Prosecute

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) has the responsibility for all prosecutions relating to legislation administered and/or enforced by the CFIA. Where prosecution is deemed the most appropriate response by the CFIA, Area EIS will forward briefs of evidence to the appropriate office of the PPSC with the recommendation that charges be laid. It is clearly recognized that the discretion to initiate a prosecution rests with PPSC.

10.0 Recourse Mechanisms

The CFIA recognizes that decisions and enforcement actions may have an impact on those who are affected by them. There are a variety of recourse mechanisms available to regulated parties which are based on legislative provisions, as well as on common and civil law. Possible options include:

Parties who are regulated by the CFIA have a general right to recourse under the law. In some cases, legislation that is administered and enforced by the CFIA permits specific avenues of recourse related to the regulatory action(s) taken by the CFIA. For example, one recourse mechanism that may be available to a regulated party includes an opportunity to be heard in the case of a cancellation of an operator's licence. Regulated parties should review the applicable legislation to determine what rights to recourse may be available to them.

Appendix A - Frequently Used Terms

Administrative Monetary Penalty (AMP)
An Administrative Monetary Penalty comes in the form of a Notice of Violation with Warning or a Penalty, ranging from $500 to $1300 for individuals and $1300 to $10,000 for violations committed during the course of business and results in a financial benefit.Footnote 4 An AMP may be issued to a regulated party for a violation of an agri-food Act.
"Compliance" is the state of conformity of regulated parties with the law.
Compliance Management
"Compliance management" means managing compliance using the wide range of tools available to the CFIA across the enforcement continuum. This includes promoting, assessing and responding to non-compliance as it relates to CFIA's activities.
A "contravention" refers to non-compliance with the legislative requirements of the CFIA.
Enforcement is the use of administrative tools as well as inspection powers granted under legislation to determine and compel compliance with the applicable laws.
Enforcement Officials
Enforcement officials include inspectors, veterinary inspectors and officials of other agencies or departments who are designated to enforce CFIA legislation. It also includes EIS Investigation Specialists, who are designated as inspectors for the purpose of enforcing the CFIA's legislation.
Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP)
A HACCP program is a system identifying a point in a process at which control is to be applied in order to prevent or eliminate a hazard to an acceptable level.
Information Tool
An "information tool" is used in reference to any form of industry communication, including, but not limited to: letters, pamphlets, brochures, communiqués, guidelines, presentations and Listserv.
Inspection activities include inspections, audits, verifications, monitoring, analyses, grading and surveys undertaken by the CFIA to verify compliance with the CFIA's legislative requirements.
An inspector is an individual who has been designated to administer and/or enforce CFIA legislation.
Inspector's Non-Compliance Report (INCR)
An INCR is a tool used by inspection staff to refer incidents of non-compliance to Area Enforcement and Investigation Services (EIS) for investigation.  An INCR should contain valid, accurate, complete and properly documented evidence of non-compliance before any action is initiated by EIS.
An investigation involves the gathering of evidence and information, from a variety of sources, relevant to a suspected non-compliance.
"Legislation" can refer to an Act or its Regulations.
Regulated Party
"Regulated party" refers to an individual or business entity undertaking activities that are regulated by CFIA legislation.
Regulated Product
A regulated product is any thing in respect of which an Act administered and/or enforced by the CFIA applies, including:
  • an agricultural product in respect of which the Canada Agricultural Product Act applies;
  • a fertilizer or a supplement in respect of which the Fertilizers Act applies;
  • fish or a marine plant in respect of which the Fish Inspection Act applies;
  • a feed in respect of which the Feeds Act applies;
  • food, as defined in the Food and Drugs Act;
  • an animal, animal product, animal by-product, veterinary biologic or other thing in respect of which the Health of Animals Act applies;
  • an animal or a meat product in respect of which the Meat Inspection Act applies;
  • a plant or other thing in respect of which the Plant Protection Act applies; and
  • seed in respect of which the Seeds Act applies.
Any contravention of an agri-food Act or its regulations that may be proceeded with in accordance with the Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act.

Appendix B - Acronyms

AMP - Administrative Monetary Penalty

AMPs Act - Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act

CBSA - Canada Border Services Agency

CFIA - Canadian Food Inspection Agency

CPIQ - Canadian Partners in Quality

DPP - Director of Public Prosecutions

EIS - Enforcement and Investigation Services

HACCP - Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point

INCR - Inspector's Non-Compliance Report

PPSC - Public Prosecution Service of Canada

QMP - Quality Management Program

Date modified: