What is the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations?

In 2012, Canada initiated a modernization phase of its food safety regulations, culminating in the implementation of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) in January 2019.

The Safe Food for Canadian Regulations (SFCR) is the new Canadian food safety regulation that has repealed and replaced the previous regulations with a single law. The SFCR marked a significant regulatory overhaul in Canada, drawing inspiration from the new Codex Alimentarius, and consolidated the various pre-existing regulations into a single framework.

The primary goal of this new unified regulation was to make the Canadian food system even safer from field to table, focusing on prevention and enabling the swift removal of unsafe foods from the market. The key objectives were to:

  • Enhance food safety for Canadian families

  • Protect consumers by overseeing unsafe practices

  • Impose stricter penalties on activities that jeopardize health and safety

  • Provide better import control

  • Establish a more consistent inspection regime across all food products

  • Strengthen food traceability

The SFCR introduces three main changes:

  • Preventive Controls: The SFCR introduces a preventive approach through the development of the Preventive Control Plan, a document to be implemented by both industries and importers.

  • License: Importers are required to obtain a license to continue importing food products.

  • Traceability: Traceability of products step by step, implemented by both industries and importers.

On December 14, 2016, changes to nutritional labeling, ingredient lists, and requirements for food colorings came into effect. These changes became fully effective on December 14, 2021. All prepackaged food products manufactured or imported after this date must comply with the new labeling requirements.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Canada’s food safety agency, conducted an official inspection of Italy’s system in 2019 and found the Italian sector of processed products containing red meat to be not equivalent to certain requirements of the SFCR. For the export of cured meats, hams, and other products to Canada, Italian processors must implement additional procedures.

How to comply with the SFCR for export to Canada?

Not all SFCR requirements came into effect in January 2019. Canada planned a gradual enforcement based on the type of food product, activity type, and company size, with different timelines depending on the nature of the considered products, closing by June 2021. This regulation replaces and partly incorporates 14 existing vertical federal regulations specific to different products and sectors, applying to imports, exports, and interprovincial trade.

ESI’s technical team assists Italian agri-food industries in adapting to the new regulatory requirements of the SFCR:

  • Specific training

  • Development and revision of the Preventive Control Plan, as required by Canadian importers

  • In the red meat and derivative products sector, as requested by CFIA, development of additional procedures

  • Review of labels according to the new requirements of the current regulations.


Importers are also required to maintain specific documentation to trace the foreign supplier/producer, essentially monitoring food products from the initial distribution level.

These new obligations and responsibilities include verifying the documentation of goods imported from foreign suppliers. According to the SFCR, Canadian importers are responsible for ensuring that foreign suppliers produce, prepare, store, package, and label the food in the same conditions as required in Canada before it is imported. Foreign suppliers must be aware of Canadian food safety requirements and provide necessary documents to demonstrate that food safety controls are in place.

In the case of meat and crustaceans, imports are only allowed from countries with a food safety system approved and recognized by CFIA, providing an equivalent level of protection as mandated by the Safe Food for Canadians Act and its regulations.

Thus, Canadian importers may request from Italian food industry exporters:

  • Specific training for quality personnel as outlined in SFCR Part 4 – Preventive Controls, Division 4 – Maintenance and operation of establishment, Sub Division F – Competency, Section 75

  • Development of the Preventive Control Plan as required by SFCR Part 4 – Preventive Controls, Division 6 – Preventive Control Plan, Section 89

  • Additional documentation deemed necessary for the evaluation of the foreign supplier, demonstrating alignment with current Canadian regulations.

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