Dinner is Served – Food Importers in Canada Must Apply for Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Licence

March 9, 2021

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has announced that as of March 15, 2021, importers must possess a valid Safe Food for Canadians (SFC) licence before importing food products that are covered under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations. The announcement explains that (i) unless importers enter a valid SFC licence into their import declaration, the CFIA will reject their imports of meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, honey, or maple products, and (ii) importers will not be able to obtain SFC licences for their shipments at the border.

The CFIA’s announcement should be read together with the new Customs Notice 20-01, which was issued by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) on January 6, 2021 (replacing the previous Customs Notice CN 19-01 concerning SFC requirements). The new customs notice explains the importance of obtaining new SFC licences, as licences and registrations issued under previous CFIA food legislation (e.g. the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Regulations, or the Dairy Products Regulations) are no longer valid for registered foods. Rather, SFC licences are now mandatory for commercial importers of covered foods. The new customs notice also explains that “[s]hipments without an SFC licence may experience delays or refusal of entry at the border, and importers may be subject to enforcement actions”.

Under normal circumstances, SFC licence applications normally take up to 15 business days to process. If a pre-licence inspection is required, the process can take longer. Importers requiring an SFC licence are encouraged to submit their application as soon as possible to avoid delays or rejection of shipments at the border.

The SCFR identifies general exemptions from licensing requirements for certain categories of food imports. However, even if exempted from the SFCR requirements, food imports remain subject to CFIA requirements under the Health of Animals ActPlant Protection Act and their associated regulations, as well as all other relevant Canadian legislation and regulations.

Tereposky & DeRose LLP regularly provides advice on the interpretation, application, and implementation of customs notices and provides representation to Canadian and international businesses at the CBSA. Should you have any questions regarding the CFIA requirements for a new SFC licence, or any other trade matter, we are at your disposal.


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