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CFIA compliance continuum

Although the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) came into force on January 15, 2019, certain requirements may apply in 2020 and 2021 based on food commodity, type of activity and business size. For more information, refer to the SFCR timelines.


Compliance continuum model. Description follows.

The CFIA's approach to regulatory compliance will continue to be based on the concept of a continuum. The compliance continuum is a relationship framework between the regulator (CFIA) and the regulated party (ies) in the context of regulatory compliance within the CFIA mandate. The purpose of the compliance continuum is to support the regulated party to comply with applicable legislation and when not in compliance, to guide them back into compliance. The compliance continuum is a circular model consisting of the following components: permission, compliance promotion, compliance verification (through standard inspection procedures), response to non-compliance, and recourse.


CFIA grants regulatory permissions authorizing regulated parties to conduct specific activities. Permissions include licences, permits, authorizations and certificates as prescribed by the applicable Act and Regulations. Permissions will be required for most regulated parties in the food sector who are subject to the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR), to operate domestically and to conduct import or export activities.

The permission process is enabled by paper and e-mail as well as an on-line route in selected cases. Increasingly, on-line transactions are taking place via the My CFIA platform. Once enrolled into the on-line My CFIA, applicants will have access to permission related information for their businesses. My CFIA account functions will allow applicants to complete and submit new service requests, make modifications and view messages. Alternate service provider relationships can also be made to allow other external users (e.g. brokers) to access information on behalf of their clients.

Dealing with permission related files, CFIA staff will follow standardized procedures as outlined in the Standard Permissions Procedure (SPP) providing a common approach and general overview for processing service requests relating to permissions both with and without Preventive Control Plans (PCPs).

Compliance promotion

Compliance promotion is any activity that supports, motivates or encourages compliance with legislation and policies which CFIA enforces. The program delivers and promotes accessible, plain language tools, products, services and guidance to increase awareness and understanding of regulations which supports the regulated party with implementation of the requirements, applicable to the food and food activities they conduct. The main delivery vehicle for compliance promotion products at the CFIA is its website, which hosts information/links to interpretive guidance and tools. The CFIA posts its compliance promotion information (e.g. factsheets, interpretive guidance documents) and interactive tools (e.g. Online Labelling Tool) to its website in a manner that is accessible and searchable for users.

For more information on compliance promotion products and services, please visit Toolkit for businesses.

Compliance verification

The CFIA verifies compliance with its legislative requirements by conducting a range of inspection activities. These activities may include establishment inspection, product inspection, or sampling. The purpose of an inspection is to assess whether a regulated party meets the legislative requirements and conditions of a licence or a permit.

The CFIA is implementing a common inspection approach for conducting inspections of regulated parties. It includes standardized operational procedures as outlined in the Standard Inspection Procedure (SIP) that describe consistent methods of inspection allowing CFIA inspectors to conduct inspections which verify compliance with regulatory requirements and permission conditions–with or without a written Preventive Control Plan (PCP), where applicable.

Inspectors use a combination of onsite inspection and evaluation techniques for assessing compliance and determining the impact of non-compliance. Verification activities can include making visual observations, evaluating documentation, interviewing personnel, sampling, measuring, testing, and commodity specific inspection. These standardized procedures provide inspectors with the flexibility to assess various situations that may arise during an inspection.

The type, frequency, and extent of the CFIA's oversight activities will be proportional to the risks that need to be managed. The inspector will be able to assess the potential impact of non-compliance to determine which actions are required; including taking appropriate control and enforcement action.

For more information on inspection activities, please visit What to expect when inspected.

Response to non-compliance

The CFIA has a mandate to administer and enforce food legislation. When non-compliances of regulatory requirements are identified, appropriate control or enforcement actions are taken. Control actions are undertaken to mitigate risk while enforcement actions are undertaken to respond to non-compliance by a regulated party.

Enforcement actions are taken once compliance verification activities have determined non-compliance by the regulated party. The purpose of enforcement action is to guide the regulated party to come back into compliance and avoid reoccurrence of non-compliance. 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 and the intent of the regulated party.

Control and enforcement activities conducted by CFIA staff will be guided by the Standard Regulatory Response Process (SRRP) to provide a standardized and predictable approach for response to non-compliance.

For more information on response to non-compliance please visit Compliance and Enforcement activities.

Recourse mechanism

The CFIA recognizes that regulatory decisions and enforcement actions may have an impact on regulated parties. 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 and CFIA policy.

Parties who are regulated by the CFIA may wish to consider recourse avenues should they disagree or be dissatisfied with the action taken by the CFIA. 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. Regulated parties should review the applicable legislation and CFIA policies to determine what rights to recourse may be available to them in respect of regulatory actions and service delivery.

For more information on available recourse, please visit Complaints and Appeals Office.

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