Canada’s SCFR Soon In Effect for All Food – Manufactured In-Country or Imported
Updated: Nov 22, 2018
Whether you own or manage a food facility in Canada or you export (or would like to export) your food product to Canada, the time is fast approaching for you to be compliant with the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SCFR). The proposed Regulations, which consolidated 14 sets of existing commodity-based regulations into a single set of outcome-based requirements, were pre-published in January 2017, with a 90-day public comment period.
In January 2018, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) published a “What We Heard Report,” summarizing the feedback received from stakeholders. “Overall,” CFIA stated, “Stakeholders are supportive of the proposed direction, which is seen as being consistent with global approaches to food safety and a boost to the competitiveness of Canadian businesses. Although that report did not include discussion of the regulations’ compliance date, a recent agency publication indicates an implementation date of May 2018.
What the Rule Means to You
In brief, the new rules will make licensing mandatory for most food businesses that do business in or with Canada. This includes processors, importers, exporters, and companies in other countries (including the U.S.) that ship to Canada. As such, mandatory Preventive Controls programs will come into effect for all licensed food businesses.
As we discussed in our newsletter in February 2017, the similarities between Canada’s new regulations and those of the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) are not coincidental. As explained, CFIA stated: "The proposed regulations are in line with approaches being taken by these key trading partners to better manage food safety risks" and to ensure Canada's trading partners "continue to have confidence in our food safety system because the proposed regulations are aligned with internationally-recognized standards."
But there are some differences. One critical one being that Canada’s regulations will be incorporated by reference. This means that the regulations will refer to guidance documents that can be updated without having to go through the full regulatory process. This allows for more responsive and flexible updating of technical standards – and was a decision that was strongly supported in the stakeholder comments.
There also was overwhelming support for acknowledging the food safety systems already in place under recognized industry regimes, such as Canada GAP, though small business is seeking government funding support to make the transition to SCFR.
CFIA summarized the key messages of the 1,717 comments in five categories: Technical, Small Business, Organic Products, Implementation of the Regulations, Trade and Competitiveness. With the majority of the input being positive, some of the key messages were:
There was a great deal of input on animal welfare related to slaughter of animals for food, with more precise training protocols, and specific and stronger language requested for the humane treatment of animals prior to, and during, slaughter.
Some felt that there should be no exemption for licensing of food storage and transporters.
Small businesses felt that the definition of a small business should be the same as that of FSMA (less than $1M revenue per year). The administrative burden of having written PCPs was felt to be significant by many small businesses.
For organics, there was concern expressed about the consolidation of the Organic Products Regulations into the SFCR. Commenters sought clarification on current Organic Certification and a CFIA license and questioned the inclusion of slaughter, storage and conveyances in the Scope of Organic Certification.
For implementation, there was a demand for better electronic and digital tools to conduct business with CFIA, although support was shown for the CFIA’s new recourse programs.
While guidance materials on the CFIA website were seen as very helpful, some concern was expressed about inspector training and lack of consistent delivery of inspection services.
For trade and competitiveness, the big concern was the question of who can hold a CFIA import license. As proposed, SFCR allows importers to be located in countries having comparable food safety systems. There was a mixture of support and opposition to this. Stakeholders suggested that more international agreements to support trade should be a CFIA priority.
What This Means Going Forward
It is great news that CFIA has been able to review all comments and conduct the necessary analysis. The next steps will be to make any final amendments with the Department of Justice. Once that is completed, the government will do a final review, then the regulations will be published in Canada Gazette Part II – making SFCR law. Exact timing is hard to predict because this is a Parliamentary process that is subject to possible scheduling and priority changes, however, at this point a late spring date seems likely.
Although implementation is staggered for different parts of the industry, the time to start was yesterday, especially for larger operations that have not already been under more intensive CFIA inspection programs. For many importers, this will be a big change, and it is important to get started in developing your Import Preventive Controls Program.
If you are still trying to build your program, or have any questions, TAG has the experts who can help.
About The Acheson Group (TAG)
Led by Former FDA Associate Commissioner for Foods Dr. David Acheson, TAG is a food safety consulting group that provides guidance and expertise worldwide for companies throughout the food supply chain. With in-depth industry knowledge combined with real-world experience, TAG's team of food safety experts help companies more effectively mitigate risk, improve operational efficiencies, and ensure regulatory and standards compliance. www.AchesonGroup.com