New requirements for businesses in the fresh fruits or vegetables sector
Businesses working in the fresh fruits or vegetables (FFV) sector got their first taste of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) when the regulations began coming into force on January 15, 2019.
On that date, new licensing requirements began to apply for most businesses that import or prepare fresh fruits or vegetables for export or interprovincial trade. Those businesses were required to obtain a Safe Food for Canadians (SFC) licence from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Most businesses except growers and harvesters also had to meet traceability requirements.
New requirements that will come into force as of January 15, 2020, include preventive controls, preventive control plans and traceability, including lot code labelling of consumer-prepackaged fresh fruits or vegetables. Businesses will, however, have until January 15, 2021 to use up existing packaging.
Since some of the SFCR's requirements were new to fresh fruits or vegetables, businesses in the sector have had extra time to comply.
The SFCR and FFV
Fresh fruits or vegetables are defined in the SFCR as "any fresh plant or any fresh edible fungus, or any part of such a plant or fungus, that is a food." This includes any fresh herbs, fruits, vegetables, mushrooms or sprouts, and they can be wild or cultivated.
CFIA worked with the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, the Canadian Horticultural Council and CanadaGAP to gather feedback for developing provisions in the regulations that relate to the fresh fruits or vegetables sector.
Fresh fruits or vegetables businesses are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the requirements as soon as possible to ensure compliance by January 15, 2020.
As of January 15, 2019, importers of fresh fruits or vegetables were required to obtain an SFC licence from CFIA.
As of January 15, 2020, importers who currently require an SFC licence and do not have one may experience delays or refusal of entry of their shipment at the border, and may be subject to other SFCR enforcement actions.
Licensed fresh fruit or vegetable businesses, as well as growers and harvesters of fresh fruit or vegetables for export or interprovincial trade, will need to have preventive controls in place. The controls would aim to address food safety hazards, such as microbiological contamination, that may be introduced during the growing and harvesting of fresh fruits or vegetables, and help prevent contaminated and non-compliant food from entering the marketplace.
Preventive control plans
The SFCR introduce requirements for most food businesses to maintain a preventive control plan (PCP). A PCP is a written document that demonstrates how risks to food are identified and controlled.
Fresh fruits or vegetables businesses with gross annual food sales of more than $100,000 will be required to have a written PCP. This requirement also applies to businesses that grow or harvest fresh fruits or vegetables for interprovincial trade or export and that have gross annual food sales of more than $100,000. In addition, importers of fresh fruits or vegetables will need to ensure that their PCP addresses the preventive controls for growing and harvesting done by their foreign supplier.
If a business has implemented CanadaGAP or a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system, it is well positioned to show compliance with PCP requirements relating to food safety. However, businesses should review their food safety systems to make sure that all of the PCP requirements, including those for grade and labelling, are addressed.
The SFCR require food businesses to track the movement of food one step forward and one step back in the supply chain. These traceability requirements come into force on January 15, 2020, for businesses that grow or harvest fresh fruits or vegetables.
To meet the requirements, businesses will need to prepare and keep traceability documents and ensure that a label containing the required traceability information is applied, attached or accompanies the fresh fruits or vegetables when provided to another person or business.
The lot code labelling requirements for consumer prepackaged fresh fruits or vegetables will come into force on January 15, 2020. CFIA is currently updating its guidance for enforcing lot code labelling for the fresh fruits or vegetables sector. They play an important role in traceability, especially during food safety investigations or outbreaks.
Examples of lot codes include production date, best before date, establishment number or SFC licence number. Furthermore, for fresh fruits or vegetables, the lot code may also be the harvest date, grower identification number, growing region or any other code that may be used for traceability purposes.
CFIA's website offers an SFCR Toolkit for food businesses. It provides information on licensing, preventive controls and traceability, including a Fact Sheet for the fresh fruits or vegetables sector.
Apply for a licence
In November and December 2019, CFIA will be hosting question-and-answer sessions in which industry representatives can ask SFCR experts about the new requirements coming into force for the FFV sector on January 15, 2020.
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