Operational Procedure: Procedures for suspending and reinstating a food licence

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

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1.0 Purpose

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) inspection staff on the procedures for suspending a licence issued under sections 20(1) of the Safe Food for Canadian Act (SFCA).

This document is intended to be used in conjunction with other guidance documents as referenced in section 3.0.

The guidance outlined below should be used when the inspectorate has applied the Standard regulatory response process (SRRP), has reviewed the Operational guideline – Food regulatory response guidelines, and has determined that suspension of a food licence is appropriate.

2.0 Authorities

The inspection powers, control actions and enforcement actions authorized by the food legislations are identified and explained in the Operational guideline – Food regulatory response guidelines.

3.0 Reference documents

4.0 Definitions

Definitions are located in either the:

5.0 Acronyms

Acronyms are spelled out the first time they are used in this document and are consolidated in the Food business line acronyms list.

6.0 Operational procedure

6.1 Confirm that regulated party is notified of the non-compliance

Verify that the regulated party has been provided with a written notification of non-compliance.

A written notification may be in the form of:

  • an official inspection report (an Inspection report - Corrective action request (IR-CAR) or Standard inspection procedures (SIP) inspection report)
  • a letter of non-compliance
  • a letter issued by CFIA's Account Receivable identifying that fees are overdue

When a suspension is initiated immediately after inspection due to the risk of injury to human health, the regulated party is notified by an official inspection report. The inspection report must identify the non-compliance, and the risk of injury to human health that sets the ground for suspension. In this case, it is not required to identify a date by which permanent corrective actions must be implemented. Control actions to mitigate any risk associated with implicated products may be taken simultaneously.

When a suspension is initiated after a follow up inspection determines the licence holder failed to implement corrective actions, the inspection report that was issued during the initial inspection serves as the written notification of non-compliance that sets the grounds for suspension. In this case the written notice must clearly identify the nature of the non-compliance, the date by which permanent corrective actions must be implemented, and a statement that failure to implement corrective actions within the specified timeline may result in suspension.

Note

A statement will be added to the DSDP inspection report to indicate that if the regulated party does not take corrective actions within the specified timelines, CFIA may initiate further enforcement actions. Until such time this statement is included on the inspection report, the report can't be served as an official notification of non-compliance. Inspectors may notify the regulated party of the non-compliance via a letter.

6.2 Verify that grounds for suspension are met

Refer to the Operational guideline – Food regulatory response guidelines to verify that grounds for suspension of a licence are met.

6.3 Determine if suspension is the most appropriate regulatory response to the non-compliance

Review all relevant facts and consider all available enforcement options prior to initiating a suspension. Determine if a letter of non-compliance issued to the regulated party or a meeting with the regulated party could be effective means to obtain compliance.

6.4 Prepare a recommendation for suspension of a licence

  1. Complete a "Recommendation for a Licence Action" Form (Action Form). Include all information as directed on the form. In particular, ensure all the following information is included:
    • sections of the SFCAs and SFCR or Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) that were not in compliance
    • information about the compliance history of the regulated party
    • a recommendation for suspension of regulated party's licence
    • the rational for recommending suspension and any alternative actions that the Director of Operations may want to consider
  2. Submit the Action Form and any supporting documents to your supervisor for review and approval

The Supervisor reviews the case and verifies that the grounds for suspension have been met and that the recommendation is consistent with the Food regulatory response guidelines. The supervisor signs the Action Form and submits the package to the Inspection Manager (IM) for approval.

The IM reviews the recommendation and supporting documents, signs the Action Form and submits it to the Director of Operations for final approval.

At any point during the process, the Supervisor, IM or Director of Operations may consult with the Operational Guidance and Expertise (OGE) Division to confirm whether grounds for suspension exist.

In accordance with the CFIA delegation of authorities, only the responsible delegate may make the decision to suspend a licence. In making the decision, the Director of Operations may consult with various groups including a Management Oversight Body, a File Triage Committee or Management Review Team that are in place to facilitate consistency in the enforcement response. The Director of Operations will communicate the decision to inspection staff by completing the Action Form and returning it to the IM.

6.5 Draft a suspension letter

If the decision to suspend the regulated party's licence has been made by the Director of Operations, use the templates in Appendix 1 to draft the appropriate suspension letter.

  • Use the "Notification of Suspension of a Licence" template for situations when a licence has been suspended under the section 36 of SFCR
  • Use the "Notification of Suspension of a Licence Due to Risk of Injury to Human Health" template for situations when a licence has been suspended under section 37 of the SFCR

Provide the draft letter for signature by the Director of Operations.

6.6 Notify the regulated party of the CFIA decision to suspend their licence

  1. Mail the original Notification of Suspension signed by the Director of Operations to the regulated party by registered mail or hand deliver to the regulated party.
  2. If delivered by registered mail, follow up with the regulated party to ensure they received the letter and understand it.
  3. Maintain a copy of the signed suspension letter and action form in file.
  4. Enter the details of the enforcement action in DSDP.

Note

If the licence holder continues to conduct an activity that is identified in their licence while the licence is suspended, refer to the Operational procedure – Procedures for cancelling a food licence.

6.7 Notify the CoA of the CFIA decision to suspend or reinstate a licence

Once the inspection decision has been taken to suspend or lift the suspension a food licence, the Director of Operations or delegate, sends a red-flagged e-mail to the Centre of Administration (CoA) at cfia.permission.acia@canada.ca:

  • Subject line in the e-mail "SUSPENSION/REINSTATEMENT – SFC licence – licence number – company name"
  • Communicate valid rationale that led to this decision in the body of the e-mail
  • Attach supporting documentation (if applicable) to help the CoA defend the Director of Operations' decision when the CoA amends the status of the licence on the DSDP and other applicable eligibility lists.

When a licence is suspended or reinstated, the CoA will amend the status of the licence in the DSDP. Safe Food for Canadians Licence Registry list is directly updated from DSDP (it may take up to 4 hours for the list to refresh). The name and contact information for the licence holder will be removed from the registry (in case of suspension/cancellation) or added to the list when licence is issued or reinstated.

The amendments to the Safe Food for Canadians Licence Registry List, reflects the eligibility of the food business licenced under the SFCR for export to countries that do not require a commodity and country specific establishment or product eligibility list.

The Canadian Establishments Approved List for fish and seafood, the List of Federally Registered Meat Establishments and their Licensed Operators for meat and the list of Registered egg stations are maintained separately. CoA will manually update these lists when notified by the inspectors of changes to a licence status.

Inspector should confirm that regulated party's status in the Safe Food for Canadians Licence Registry, and other applicable eligibility lists has been updated.

6.8 Lifting a licence suspension

Suspension of a licence remains in effect until the Director of Operations determines that corrective actions have been taken and are effective. To help inform the Director of Operations, assess the regulated party's response to the suspension of the licence based on the guidance in Table 1, below.

Table 1: Determining next steps following licence suspension
If Then
the regulated party has notified the CFIA within 90 calendar days following suspension (or longer, if agreed upon) that corrective actions have been taken to correct the non-compliance that led to suspension
  • conduct an inspection to verify that corrective actions have been implemented effectively to bring the licence holder into compliance
  • verify that inspection fees are paid
  • if the required corrective actions have been taken, complete a "Recommendation for a Licence Action" form to recommend re-instatement of the licence and submit it to your supervisor
the regulated party failed to implement effective corrective actions within 90 calendar days (or longer if agreed upon) following the suspension to correct the non-compliance that led to suspension

The Supervisor reviews the recommendation for re-instatement of licence to verify that conditions for lifting the suspension have been met and submits for IM approval. IM reviews the recommendation and will submit the Action Form for Director of Operations' approval.

At any point during the process, the Supervisor, IM, or Director of Operations may consult with the OGE Division to confirm that the grounds for lifting the suspension have been met.

Once the recommendation has been approved by the Director of Operations:

  • issue a "Notification of Licence Re-instatement"
  • follow the instructions in section 6.7 to notify the CoA of the CFIA decision to re-instate a licence
  • verify that the status of the regulated party on the Safe Food for Canadians Licence Registry and other applicable eligibility lists has been updated
  • mail or email the notification letter approved by the Director of Operations to the regulated party
  • if the notification has been mailed, follow up with the regulated party to ensure they have received the notification, and understood
  • record the result of follow up inspection in the DSDP

7.0 Appendices

For general inquiries related to this Operational Guidance Document, please follow established communication channels, including submitting an electronic Request for Action Form (e-RAF) - (internal access only).

Appendix 1 – Forms and templates

  • Recommendation for a Licence Action Form (Internal access only - RDIMS 10461441)
  • Notification of Suspension of a Licence (Internal access only - RDIMS 10463561)
  • Notification of Suspension of a Licence Due to Risk of Injury to Human Health (Internal access only - RDIMS 10188609)
  • Notification of Re-instatement of a Licence after Suspension (Internal access only - RDIMS 10467143)

Please note that some of the reference documents have internal access only.

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