Regulatory requirements: Preventive controls
10.0 Investigation and notification, complaints and recall

SFCR: Sections 82 to 85

Rationale

An effective complaint, investigation, notification and recall system allows you to

  • identify and determine if any of the food you are responsible for presents a risk of injury to human health or does not meet the requirements of the Safe Food for Canadians Act and Regulations; and
  • notify the Canadian Food Inspection Agency without delay and remove the food from distribution, retail sale or consumer use, or correct the food at the point of sale when necessary

As a result, you will protect consumers from preventable health risks and other issues relating to non-compliance and possibly reduce cost and damage to your food business's reputation. A carefully prepared recall procedure, along with a good traceability system, helps to ensure that the foods you are responsible for can be effectively and efficiently recalled, if necessary.

What this means for your food business

To help you understand these requirements, specific criteria and examples are outlined below. The examples are not exhaustive but help illustrate the intent of the requirement and offer examples of what you could do to comply. For more best practices on how to comply, guidance materials have been hyperlinked throughout the examples boxes. In addition, key terms throughout the text have also been hyperlinked to the SFCR glossary.

Subsection 82(1) and section 85: Investigation when food may present a risk or does not meet the Act or Regulations

  • When you suspect that a food, including a food that you have imported, presents a risk of injury to human health or is non-compliant with the Safe Food for Canadians Act or its Regulations, you investigate the matter immediately

    Examples:

    • You investigate the matter immediately when
      • a client notifies you that several consumers have reported becoming sick after consuming your food
      • an employee working on one of your food processing lines informs you that there appears to be large pieces of plastic in some of the food on the line
      • a consumer who has a known allergy calls to say he has experienced an allergic reaction after eating your food, and the food's list of ingredients does not indicate the presence of the allergen

Subsection 82(2) and section 85: Notification to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)

  • If the investigation establishes that the food, including a food that you have imported, presents a risk of injury to human health, you immediately
    • notify the CFIA; and
    • take action to mitigate the risk

      Examples:

      • The results of your investigation indicate that the food contains harmful levels of a hazard (for example, Listeria monocytogenes in a ready-to-eat food that supports its growth). The food has been or could have been distributed. You immediately:
        • contact your area's CFIA recall coordinator
        • ensure that any potentially harmful food is immediately identified, detained and segregated
      • For additional information on notifying the CFIA and the type of information to provide, refer to the guidance material on Recall procedure: A guide for food businesses

Subsection 83(1) and section 85: Procedure for receiving, investigating and responding to complaints

  • You prepare, keep and maintain a document that describes the food complaint procedure you use for receiving, investigating and responding to complaints related to food, including food you import

    Examples:

    • You have documented food complaint procedures for
      • identifying a competent person to investigate the complaint and forwarding the complaint to this person in a timely manner
      • categorizing the complaint (for example, pre-set criteria such as severity and level of risk)
      • examining the complainant's food sample or other food with the same code
      • ensuring that the investigation and response to a complaint is appropriate to the risk and takes into consideration any existing knowledge on previous complaints or complaint trends
    • You document when and how you review and update the procedure

Subsection 83(2) and section 85: Implementing complaint procedures and preparing and keeping complaint documents

  • Upon receiving a food complaint, including a complaint on a food that you import, you implement the food complaint procedure
  • You prepare a document that describes the
    • details of the complaint
    • results of the investigation; and
    • actions you have taken based on the results of the investigation

      Examples:

      • You prepare documents for all of the food complaints that you receive
      • You collect and document the following
        • details of the complaint, including the
          • date the complaint was received
          • name, address, telephone number(s), e-mail of the complainant
          • problem reported
          • common name of the food, package type and size, lot code or unique identifier
      • results of the investigation, including the
        • name and title of the person responsible for investigating the complaint
        • date and time of the investigation
        • investigation findings, such as what the problem is, how it happened, source of the problem, any other food that may be affected and reason
      • actions taken based on the investigation findings, including any
        • action taken on the affected food and any other potentially affected food, the date on which it was taken, and the person responsible
        • action taken to correct the source of the problem, the date on which it was taken, and the person responsible
        • details on the notification to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency or other regulated parties (if applicable)
  • You keep the document for at least two years after the day on which you completed the actions you took as a result of the investigation

Subsection 84(1) and section 85: Written procedure for conducting a recall

  • You prepare, keep and maintain a document that describes your recall procedure for effectively recalling food, including food that you import
  • The recall procedure includes the names of
    • a contact person who is responsible for the recall procedure; and
    • a contact person who is responsible for conducting recalls

      Examples:

      • You review your recall procedure regularly and update it as necessary. Some of the updates may be based on the results of your recall simulations
      • You document when and how you review and update the procedure
      • Your recall procedure includes the following eleven steps
        1. Assemble your recall management team
        2. Notify the Canadian Food Inspection Agency
        3. Identify all food to be recalled
        4. Hold and segregate food to be recalled that are in your control
        5. Review the CFIA public food recall warning (if required)
        6. Prepare the distribution list
        7. Prepare and send the notice of recall
        8. Verify and document the effectiveness of the recall notification
        9. Control the recalled food
        10. Decide what to do with the recalled food
        11. Choose a corrective and preventive measure
        12. Conduct a post recall review
      • For additional information on developing a recall procedure, refer to the guidance material on Recall procedure: A guide for food businesses

Paragraph 84(2)(a) and section 85: Conducting a recall simulation

  • At least once every 12 months, you conduct a recall simulation that is based on your recall procedure

    Examples:

    • You conduct the recall simulation internally within your food business
      • If possible, pick a lot code of a food that you know has reached the consumer market
      • You locate the affected food, identify all clients that are affected and ensure that your contacts are up to date
      • If the affected food was used as an ingredient in another food, you also identify and segregate that food

Paragraph 84(2)(b) and section 85: Documenting your recall simulation

  • You prepare a document that describes the details of how you conducted the recall simulation and the results of the simulation
  • You keep the document for two years after the day on which the recall simulation was completed

    Examples:

    • Your document includes the following information
      • a description of the scenario you have chosen
      • the date and time of the simulation
      • the effectiveness of the recall simulation, such as
        • whether employees followed the recall procedure
        • whether all affected clients identified quickly and
        • whether you were able to reconcile the amount of food that was recalled with the food that distributed
      • any problems you encountered during the simulation
      • when and how the identified problems were corrected and who is responsible for those corrections

Subsection 84(3) and section 85: Notifying the Canadian Food Inspection Agency when a food is recalled

  • If you determine that a food, including a food that is imported, should be recalled because it presents a risk of injury to human health, you immediately notify the CFIA

    Examples:

Subsection 84(4) and section 85: Implementing and documenting a recall

  • If a food, including a food that is imported, is the subject of a recall because it presents a risk of injury to human health you
    • immediately implement your recall procedure
    • prepare a document that describes
      • the details of the recall
      • any information that substantiates the effectiveness of the recall
  • You keep the document for a period of at least two years after the day on which the recall was initiated

    Examples:

    • You implement the recall procedure immediately after the decision to recall a food was made or immediately after you are requested to recall a food. A recall can be requested by your supplier or by the CFIA
    • Your document includes the following information
      • the date and time the recall procedure was implemented
      • the common name of the food, brand name, package type and size, lot codes or unique identifier
      • the date when you contacted your clients
      • the method you used for contacting them, such as telephone, e-mail, facsimile
      • the name of the person contacted at each of your clients' offices
      • the action that each client has taken, which could include returning the food to you
      • for each client and for each food and lot code or unique identifier that was recalled
        • the quantity of food on site at the time of the recall
        • whether or not the food has been further distributed, and if it has been further distributed, how much
      • whether the recall notification was effective
      • the method you used to determine the effectiveness of the recall notification
    • For additional information on records, recall procedure, and recall verification refer to the guidance material on Recall procedure: A guide for food businesses
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