Regulations for recognizing foreign systems for meat products and shellfish

Although the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) came into force on January 15, 2019, certain requirements are being phased in over the following 12 to 30 months. For more information, refer to the SFCR timelines.

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1.0 Introduction

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) uses different risk management actions to control the risks related to imported food. These actions help to target inspection resources and verify the compliance of importers with Canadian requirements relating to imported food. Risk management actions can occur:

  • before food enters Canada
    • pre-border actions include arrangements with a foreign country from where food is exported, certification of food shipments, information sharing and foreign system assessments/audits
  • as the food enters Canada
    • actions at the border determine whether a food shipment can be admitted into Canada
  • within Canada
    • post-border actions include importer inspections and product sampling and testing

In general, as per the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations, the CFIA may conduct foreign state assessments/audits for the following reasons:

  • as a pre-requisite to trade
    • to recognize food safety systems when it is a regulatory pre-requisite to trade as is the case for meat products and live or raw shellfish
  • systems recognition
    • to determine whether a foreign state's food inspection system is considered to provide at least the same level of protection as the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA), and the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR)
  • to evaluate a foreign state's food safety system as providing at least the same level of protection as the SFCA and SFCR
    • for food commodities other than meat and live or raw shellfish (outside of Part 7 of the SFCR)
  • to respond to previous food safety issues
    • to determine if controls are in place to prevent food safety issues from re-occurring

The Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary Measures of the World Trade Organization requires each member state to accept as equivalent the inspection system of another state if that state objectively demonstrates that its measures achieve the importing state's appropriate level of sanitary or phytosanitary protection. To approve the foreign state's inspection system, the CFIA follows the Codex guidelines on the judgment of equivalence of sanitary measures associated with food inspection and certification systems.

Part 7 of the SFCR sets out requirements for a foreign state to request that the CFIA recognize its inspection system for meat products and live or raw shellfish in order for such food commodities to be allowed to be imported into Canada. Recognition is granted when the foreign state has at least the same level of protection as that provided under the SFCA and SFCR.

2.0 Application for recognition of inspection system

Safe Food for Canadians Regulations: section 170 (1)

The CFIA may grant recognition to a foreign state for their inspection system for meat products or live or raw shellfish if that inspection system provides at least the same level of protection as that provided by the SFCA and SFCR.

Keep in mind

For the purposes of Part 7, shellfish does not include the adductor muscles of scallops or the meat of geoducks.

What this means for you

Specific criteria are outlined below to help understand these requirements. In addition, key terms throughout the text have also been hyperlinked to the SFCR glossary.

Contents of application: section 170 (2)

The authorized representative of a foreign state may make an application in writing for the recognition of its inspection system to the CFIA (Director, Food Import and Export Division). The application must include the following information:

  • for an inspection system for meat products:
    • an indication of the species of birds or mammals and a description of the meat products to which the inspection system applies
    • the approximate number of establishments where the manufacturing, preparing, storing, packaging or labelling of meat products that are intended to be exported to Canada would be conducted and which of the activities would be conducted in those establishments
    • the volume of meat products to which the inspection system applies that is anticipated to be exported to Canada per year
    • the name, title and signature of the authorized representative of the foreign state who makes the application
  • for an inspection system for live or raw shellfish:
    • an indication of the species, the growing areas and the harvesting areas to which the inspection system applies
    • the volume of live or raw shellfish to which the inspection system applies that is anticipated to be exported to Canada per year
    • the name, title and signature of the authorized representative of the foreign state who makes the application

The CFIA must recognize the inspection system in respect of which the application is made if the system provides at least the same level of protection as that provided by the provisions of the Act and these Regulations. In practice, the CFIA will send a questionnaire to the foreign state to obtain additional information to evaluate the foreign inspection system. The following information is taken into account by the CFIA:

  • for an inspection system for meat products:
    • the applicable legislative framework, controls and procedures
    • the organizational structure of the authority that is responsible for the system
    • the implementation of the inspection system
    • the resources that support the objectives of the inspection system
    • the humane treatment of the food animals that are intended to be slaughtered
    • the chemical residue monitoring and microbiological monitoring of the meat products
    • the certification process for the export of the meat products
    • the name, title and signature of the authorized representative of the foreign state who makes the application
    • any other relevant information
  • for an inspection system for live or raw shellfish:
    • the applicable legislative framework, controls and procedures
    • the organizational structure of the authority that is responsible for the inspection system
    • the implementation of the inspection system
    • the resources that support the objectives of the inspection system
    • the chemical and microbiological monitoring of the shellfish, including monitoring for biotoxins
    • the monitoring of the waters in the growing and harvesting areas to assess their suitability for their intended purpose
    • the name, title and signature of the authorized representative of the foreign state who makes the application
    • any other relevant information

Recognition by Minister: section 170 (3)

Taking into account the information that is provided with the application as well as any other relevant information, the CFIA must recognize the inspection system relating to meat products or live or raw shellfish if the system provides at least the same level of protection as that provided by the provisions of the SFCA and SFCR.

Keep in mind

As a matter of policy, CFIA may periodically reassess the inspection system to confirm that the system continues to provide at least the same level of protection as the provisions of the SFCA and SFCR.

3.0 Application for recognition of a system relating to meat products used in an establishment

Safe Food for Canadians Regulations: section 171 (1)

When a foreign state's meat inspection system for meat products has been recognized by the CFIA, the foreign state may make an application to the CFIA in writing for the recognition of the following systems that are used in an establishment that is subject to the recognized meat inspection system:

Keep in mind

Section 171 applies to systems of one or more of the foregoing listed activities in relation to meat products used in a foreign establishment that is subject to the foreign state's recognized inspection system for meat products.

What this means for you

Specific criteria are outlined below to help you understand these requirements. In addition, key terms throughout the text have also been hyperlinked to the SFCR glossary.

Contents of application: Section 171 (2)

When the foreign country submits an application for recognition of a system used in an establishment relating to meat products, it must include the following information:

  • the name of the person who conducts the relevant activity at the establishment
  • the establishment's address
  • the establishment's registration number, or another identification number for the establishment, that is provided by the foreign state
  • a statement that identifies the system in respect of which the application is made
  • a declaration by the authorized representative of the foreign state who makes the application, stating that:
    • the system in respect of which the application is made is subject to the foreign state's recognized inspection system, and
    • the system in respect of which the application is made meets the requirements of that inspection system in regard to the activities conducted in respect of meat products that are intended to be exported to Canada.
  • the name, title and signature of the authorized representative of the foreign state who is making the application

Recognition by Minister: Section 171 (3)

When an application for recognition of a system for the listed specific activities in relation to meat products is made, the CFIA must recognize the system if:

  • the foreign state's inspection system is recognized under Part 7 for the relevant meat products,
  • the system of manufacturing, processing, treating, preserving, handling, testing, grading, coding, slaughtering, storing, packaging or labelling used by the establishment is subject to the recognized inspection system
  • the system used by the establishment meets the requirements of the recognized foreign inspection system in respect of meat products that are intended to be exported to Canada.

Keep in mind

As per SFCR section 106 (1) (c), any establishment where the live or raw shellfish was manufactured, prepared, stored, packaged or labelled has, at the time that the activity is conducted and at the time of the import, a system for manufacturing, preparing, storing, packaging or labelling, as the case may be, that complies with an inspection system for live or raw shellfish that is recognized under section 170 (1).

As a matter of policy, CFIA may periodically review the recognition of systems at an establishment to confirm that the establishment continues to operate under the recognized inspection system.

4.0 Suspension of recognition

Safe Food for Canadians Regulations: section 172

The recognition of an inspection system of a foreign state must be suspended by the CFIA if the foreign state fails to notify the CFIA as soon as feasible of any changes regarding the inspection system or if that system is found to no longer provide at least the same level of protection as that provided by the provisions of the SFCA and SFCR.

The CFIA must also suspend the recognition of a system used in a meat establishment if the system does not meet the foreign state's requirements or if some shipments of meat products have been found non-compliant with the SFCA, SFCR, Food and Drugs Act or Food and Drug Regulations within a specific period of time as set out in section 172(2)(b)(i) and (ii). It must also be suspended if the system is no longer subject to the foreign state's inspection system, or the recognition of the foreign state's inspection system to which the system is subject has been suspended. The SFCR provides for a possible reinstatement of recognition in certain specific cases (s.172 (5)).

Keep in mind

For purposes of Part 7, shellfish does not include the adductor muscles of scallops or the meat of geo ducks.

What this means for you

Specific criteria are outlined below to help understand these requirements. In addition, key terms throughout the text have also been hyperlinked to the SFCR glossary.

Suspension of recognition of an inspection system: section 172 (1)

The CFIA must suspend the recognition of a foreign state's inspection system for meat products or live or raw shellfish if:

  • the foreign state does not notify the CFIA in writing as soon as feasible of any changes made to:
    • their inspection system, or
    • the legislation governing their inspection system, or
  • the inspection system no longer provides at least the same level of protection as that provided by provisions of the SFCA and SFCR.

Suspension of recognition of a system relating to meat products used in an establishment: section 172 (2)

Keep in mind

This section applies to recognized systems of one or more of the following listed activities in relation to meat products used in a foreign establishment that is subject to the foreign state's recognized inspection system for meat products.

This section only applies to recognized systems used in foreign establishments with the following activities relating to meat products:

  • manufacturing
  • processing
  • treating
  • preserving
  • handling
  • testing
  • grading
  • coding
  • slaughtering
  • storing
  • packaging
  • labelling

The CFIA must suspend the recognition of a foreign state's system used in an establishment if one or more of the following happens:

  • the system used in the establishment no longer meets the foreign state's requirements for the activities performed in the establishment
  • a shipment of meat products that have been manufactured, processed, treated, preserved, handled, tested, graded, coded, stored, packaged or labelled using the system contravenes a provision of the Safe Food for Canadians Act and Regulations, the Food and Drugs Act or the Food and Drug Regulations, and one or more of the following happens:
    • during the six-month period immediately prior to that shipment, there have been two other shipments of meat products that have been manufactured, processed, treated, preserved, handled, tested, graded, coded, stored, packaged or labelled using the system that were found to be non-compliant
    • prior to that shipment, among the four most recent shipments of meat products that have been manufactured, processed, treated, preserved, handled, tested, graded, coded, stored, packaged or labelled using the recognized system, two shipments were found to be non-compliant
  • the system in the establishment is no longer subject to the foreign state's inspection system
  • the recognition of the foreign state's inspection system to which the system in the establishment is subject to has been suspended

Notification of suspension and effective date: section 172 (3) and (4)

The CFIA send a written notice (email or letter) to the foreign state that outlines:

  • the grounds for the suspension of the recognition of the inspection system or of the system used in an establishment, and
  • the date on which the suspension takes place
    • the suspension takes effect on the day on which the notice is issued

Reinstatement of recognition; section 172 (5)

In regard to the recognition of a system relating to meat products used in an establishment, the CFIA must reinstate the recognition if the circumstances giving rise to the suspension have been remedied. Depending on the circumstances, this could be achieved by:

  • the system once again meeting the foreign state's requirements;
  • the system once again being subject to the foreign state's inspection system;
  • the establishment taking corrective action in respect of the non-compliances that led to its suspension
  • the foreign state's recognized inspection system is no longer suspended.

The CFIA must notify the foreign state in writing that the recognition is no longer suspended.

5.0 Cancellation of recognition

Safe Food for Canadians Regulations: section 173

The CFIA must cancel the recognition of an inspection system, or the recognition of a system used in an establishment relating to meat products, in certain circumstances such as an unresolved suspension, no exported products of the relevant commodity for a period of time or if the foreign state requests a cancellation.

Keep in mind

For purposes of Part 7, shellfish does not include the adductor muscles of scallops or the meat of geo ducks.

What this means for you

Specific criteria are outlined below to help you understand these requirements. In addition, key terms throughout the text have also been hyperlinked to the SFCR glossary.

Cancellation of recognition of an inspection system; section 173 (1)

The CFIA will cancel the recognition of a foreign state's inspection system for meat products or live or raw shellfish if:

  • in the last 5 years, no meat products or live or raw shellfish under a recognized system have been exported to Canada
  • 12 months after the date of suspension of recognition of the inspection system, the circumstances that gave rise to a suspension have not been remedied, or
  • the foreign state writes to request the cancellation of the inspection system recognition

Cancellation of recognition of a system relating to meat products used in an establishment: section 173 (2)

Keep in mind

This section applies to recognized systems in relation to meat products used in foreign establishments that is subject to the foreign state's recognized inspection system for meat products.

The CFIA will cancel the recognition of a recognized system used in an establishment if:

  • the recognition of the inspection system to which the establishment is subject has been cancelled
  • in the last 5 years, no meat products that were manufactured, processed, treated, preserved, handled, tested, graded, coded, stored, packaged or labelled using the recognized system have been exported to Canada from the foreign state
  • 12 months after the date of suspension of recognition of the system, the circumstances that gave rise to a suspension have not been remedied, or
  • the foreign state where the establishment is located requests the cancellation in writing

Notification of cancellation and effective date: section 173 (3) and (4)

The CFIA must send a written notice (email or letter) of the cancellation to the foreign state that outlines:

  • the grounds the inspection system or the system used in an establishment is being cancelled, and
  • the date the cancellation takes effects
    • the cancellation takes effect the same date that the notice is issued

Keep in mind

If a foreign state wants to re-apply for recognition of a cancelled inspection system, the CFIA will treat the re-application as a new application for recognition of an inspection system. This means that all steps in sections 2.0 Application for recognition of inspection system and 3.0 Application for recognition of system would need to be completed by the foreign state if its system or that of an establishment relating to meat products is to be recognized again by Canada for purposes of importing meat or live or raw shellfish.

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