Understanding the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations: A Focus on Sanitation, Hygiene and Material Handling Requirements

The CFIA enforces the Safe Food for Canadians regulations to establish a modern legislative framework that is aligned with internationally recognized standards. The regulations fit well with the Codex Alimentarius Principles for food safety, as well as key consumer protection requirements. Through this, Canadian businesses, importers and exporters are mandated to meet the relevant licensing, preventive controls, and traceability requirements.

 Outline of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 1 in 8 (or about 4 million) Canadians are affected by foodborne diseases annually that lead to over 11,500 hospitalizations and 240 deaths. Acute bacterial foodborne illnesses alone are known to cost the economy close to $ 1.1 billion a year. As a result, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) found it necessary to adopt a more preventive, streamlined, and modernized approach toward food safety in the interest of protecting public health – and, with this in mind, the Safe Food for Canadians Act was enacted into law on November 2012. This important piece of legislation allowed the CFIA to develop administration provisions for implementing the new food safety policies in the form of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR).

The SFCR requirements were published on June 13, 2018, and came into force on 15 January 2019. The scope of these regulations generally applies to food businesses that:

  • manufacture, process, treat, preserve, grade, package, or label food to be exported or sent across provincial or territorial borders;
  • grow or harvest fresh fruits or vegetables to be exported or sent across provincial or territorial borders;
  • handle fish on a conveyance to be exported or sent across provincial or territorial borders;
  • slaughter food animals from which meat products are derived to be exported or sent across provincial or territorial borders;
  • store and handle a meat product in its imported condition for inspection by the CFIA
  • import food; and
  • some of the traceability, labelling, and advertising provisions of SFCR also apply to intra-provincially traded foods.

The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations is a legal document comprising of 16 parts, which has been developed so that the following parties can benefit from the administrative provisions:

Consumers

  • The emphasis on developing a robust food safety system that facilitates the prevention of foodborne illness, and faster removal of an adulterated product from commerce.
  • Enhanced traceability, labeling, and grading requirements to assure consumer protection.
  • Improved import controls that ensure foreign food products are as safe and wholesome.

Regulatory authorities

  • SFCR combines and streamlines the provisions relating to food from about 14 sets of regulations into one document, therefore creating a consistent, outcome-based regulatory inspection regime framework. The new consolidated regulations shall replace the following administrative provisions:
    • Dairy products regulations;
    • Egg regulations;
    • Fresh fruit and vegetable regulations;
    • Honey regulations;
    • Ice-wine regulations;
    • Licensing and arbitration regulations;
    • Livestock and poultry carcass grading regulations;
    • Organic products regulations;
    • Maple products regulations;
    • Processed egg regulations;
    • Processed products regulations;
    • Consumer packaging and labelling regulations;
    • Fish inspection regulations; and
    • Meat inspection regulations.
  • CFIA’s inspection and enforcement powers are clarified and this reduces the administrative burden, which would allow the agency to make more inspections, and enhance food safety compliance at the licensed sites.

Industry stakeholders

  • The SFCR simplifies the compliance process, and this enables industry to innovate through its outcome-based provisions, adopt best practices and create greater market access opportunities for the Canadian food products exported abroad.
  • The new regulations improve consistency of rules across all types of foods, and between food industry sectors.

Importers

  • The new consolidated regulations include a requirement that imported food be prepared with the same level of food safety controls as food prepared in Canada.
  • All imported food now must meet applicable Canadian import requirements. Previously, only importers of some foods were required to be licensed and have preventive food safety controls in place. Hence, SFCR provides for a consistent approach across all types of imported foods.

Exporters

  • The SFCR requirements are consistent with international standards and this should help Canadian businesses maintain and improve market access for Canada’s food sector by aligning Canadian food safety regulations with those of key trading partners, including the U.S., European Union, Australia and New Zealand.
  • Based on the U.S.-Canada Comparable Food Safety System Recognition agreement, by acquiring an SFCR license, Canadian food businesses may demonstrate that they meet the requirements under the U.S. Foreign Supplier Verification Program so that they can continue trading with the United States.

In this white paper, we will provide a few examples of how our tools and solutions can assist in complying with sanitation, material handling, and hygiene requirements of the Part 4 or Preventive Control elements of SFCR, as given in the next section.

Preventive Controls – Focus on the Sanitation, Hygiene and Material Handling Requirements

In the new Canadian regulations, prevention of food safety hazards has been given a much greater importance. Such a measure should go a long way in helping avoid or significantly minimize foodborne illnesses, inspectional violations at sites, and market food recalls.

In the U.S. and Canada, one in three food recalls are generally related to sanitation, hygiene and material flow issues within a food processing facility. A significant proportion of these recalls can be avoided by instituting appropriate preventive controls to help reduce food contamination incidents in a plant. Based on industry estimates, having the facility, equipment, utensils, and tools be of sanitary condition could save a company $0.5-1.5 million annually in actual costs of product rejection, recalls, and associated expenses.

According to SFCR, Preventive controls “help to prevent food safety hazards and reduce the likelihood of contaminated food entering the market, whether they are prepared within or outside of Canada.” They are considered to be international best practices employed by businesses to identify and correct food safety issues early in the production process.

Preventive Controls (PCs) are generally classified into three of the following broad categories:

1. People-related PCs:

  • Management team commitment
  • Employee competence
  • Employee hygiene
  • Employee health

2. Facility-related PCs:

  • Unloading (receiving), storing (holding), and loading (shipping) food
  • Maintenance and operations of establishments
  • Equipment, tools, and utensils maintenance and flow
  • Sanitation and pest control
  • Treatments and processes, such as cooking or packaging

3. Procedures-related PCs:

  • Complaints receipt, investigations, and response
  • Market withdrawal and recall

Note – Part 4 [on Preventive Controls] of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations contains the majority of the food safety provisions.

Also, most businesses need to document their food safety controls in a Preventive Control Plan (PCP), which must include the following elements, as illustrated:

Preventive Control Plan

GMPs or Basic Preventive Controls:

Part 4 of SFCR on Preventive Controls

Division 4: Maintenance and Operation of Establishment

Sections 50-81 (Subdivisions A-G)

Food Safety PCP:

5 Preliminary Steps for Developing a HACCP Plan

+

The 7 Codex Alimentarius Principles

Market Fairness PCP:

– Labelling

– Packaging; Net Quantity

– Grading

– Standards of Identity

– Humane Treatment of Food Animals

– Import/Export Provisions

 

In a nutshell, a written PCP must describe the risks to food (and if applicable, food animals) that need to be identified and controlled. The GMPs and other food safety controls are based on internationally recognized Codex Alimentarius Guidelines. The PCP must also include market-based measures related to packaging, labelling, grades, and standards of identity, etc.

Remember, certain businesses may be exempt from having a written PCP. These are:

  • exporters of food (other than meat products or fish) who do not need an export certificate
  • businesses with $100,000 or less in gross annual food sales. This exception will not apply to businesses that conduct any activity in respect to food animals, meat products, dairy products, fish, eggs, processed egg products, or processed fruits and vegetables

Keep in mind, though, that businesses that do not require a written preventive control plan still must have preventive controls in place, such as sanitation and pest control etc.

Remco can provide high quality tools and solutions to help comply with the relevant sanitary requirements of SFCR, especially as preventive controls, and the following sections in Subdivisions from Division 4 on “Maintenance and Operation of the Establishment”:

Subdivision B on “Sanitation, Pest Control, and Non-Food Agents” requires that sanitation and handling of the materials must be conducted in a manner that does not present a risk of contamination to the food.

Remco provides a range of color-coded cleaning tools for use on product-contact surfaces such as process equipment, and non-food contact areas like floors, or drains. Moreover, color-coded scoops can be used to handle allergens and avoid potential mix-up.

 

Subdivision C on “Conveyances and Equipment” states that such units must be designed, constructed, and maintained in a way to prevent contamination.

Cleaning implements of poor design could jeopardize food safety and quality as they can be a major collection point for pathogens and other contaminants. Vikan’s Ultra Safe Technology brushes and brooms and Ultra Hygiene squeegees are hygienically designed to provide a superior cleaning solution. They are also constructed of Canadian, E.U., and U.S. regulations-compliant material.

Subdivision D on “Conditions Respecting Establishments” requires that the exterior and interior of the food facility be maintained to prevent or control sources of contamination and also permit hygienic employee practices.

Remco and Vikan can provide a range of sanitation, hygiene, and material handling tools and equipment that can be effectively used to help avoid or significantly minimize allergen cross-contact and contamination incidences within the facility. To view our product range, visit our site at https://remcoproducts.com/products/.

Subdivision E on “Unloading, Loading, and Storing” states that the receiving and shipping operations shall be conducted in a way that does not contaminate the food. It also requires that the food, its ingredients, packaging and labels to protected from contamination during storage.

Our tubs (with undercarriage attachment) come in 5 different colors. Also, we have a range of 12 colors to choose from for 35 of our most popular products. This feature supports a facility’s hygienic zoning program.

Subdivision G on Hygiene” requires that appropriate protective clothing shall be worn when handling food.

Remco can provide high quality color-coded garments such as aprons, gowns, and sleeves, which are an effective hygienic wear for food handlers.

Key Comparisons between Canada’s SFCR and U.S. FSMA

The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations requirements are closely aligned with those of the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). However, there are a few differences in their regulatory approach towards licensing, preventive controls, and documentation requirements.

The table below provides a comparison between the North American and Canadian regulatory regimes based on some of the key elements:

 

FSMA

SFCR

 

Regulatory Agency

 

 

FDA

 

CFIA

 

Licensing

Biennial FDA License under the Bioterrorism Preparedness Act of 2002

Biennial CFIA License under the Safe Food for Canadians Act and Regulations

Key Food Act and Regulations amended (and yet, still in place)

Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and related Code(s) of Federal Regulations (CFRs)

Canada’s Food and Drugs Act and Food and Drugs Regulations

 

Primary Reference(s) for Regulatory Compliance

The seven FSMA Final Rules; the most important rule being Preventive Controls for Human Food (PCHF)

The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SOR/2018-108) legal document

 

 

Regulatory Scope

 

Federal jurisdiction; Qualified facilities involved in interstate commerce and international trade

 Food businesses involved in inter-provincial and global trade. Some provisions, like labelling, apply also to businesses dealing with intra-provincial trade

 

Key Basis for GMPs (for the processing of human food)

 

The Modernized GMPs under the 21 CFR 117

GMPs (Sections 50-81) listed under Part 4 of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations on Preventive Controls

 

Food Safety Plan

Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Controls (HARPC) Plan

Codex Alimentarius based Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) Plan

 

Preventive Controls (PCs)

Process PC; Sanitation PC, Allergen PC; Supply-Chain PC; Recall Plan; Other PCs appropriate for food safety

Pre-requisites or GMPS; Food safety based Preventive Control Plan (HACCP); Market Fairness PCPs

 

 

Traceability

 

 

One-step forward to the customers, one-step back to the immediate supplier

One-step forward, one-step back. Persons who sell food at retail are required to trace the food back to the immediate supplier, but not trace forward to the consumer

 

The Key Difference

FSMA Rules are related only to the mandated food safety requirements along the supply chain

Canadian Regulations additionally have non-food safety elements i.e. the Market Fairness PCPs

Key SFCR highlights

Here are some essential tips to assist businesses on how to comply with the SFCR requirements:

  1. Revisit the SFCR exemption list: Find out whether your company is required to comply with the SFCR requirements. The Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and SFCR do not apply to the following businesses:
  • food for personal use, when food is not intended for commercial use, and:
  • the quantity of food falls within the stipulated Maximum Quantity Limits for Personal Use Exemption, and
  • the food is imported, exported, sent, or conveyed from one province to another by an individual other than in the course of business, or
  • the food is imported or exported as part of the personal effects of an immigrant or emigrant
  • food carried on a conveyance, e.g. ferries, airlines, trains, for use by crew and passengers
  • food intended and used for analysis, evaluation, research, or exhibitions, weighing 100 kg or less, or in the case of eggs, is part of a shipment of five or fewer cases
  • food not sold for use as human food (for example pet food, cosmetics), and that are labelled as such
  • foods imported from the United States onto the Akwesasne reserve, for use by a permanent resident of the reserve
  • foods imported in bond (in transit) for use by crew and passengers of a cruise ship or military ship in Canada
  • food inter-provincially traded between federal penitentiaries
  • when transporting a food commodity, if that is the sole of activity of a person

Note: Despite being exempted, such food must still be safe and meet the applicable requirements of Canada’s Food and Drugs Act and Regulations.

 

2. Find out if your business requires an SFCR License: Eligible businesses must apply for an SFCR license that meet their specific requirements. A license is valid for 2 years. As an evaluation aid, use the Licensing Interactive Tool at: https://na1se.voxco.com/SE/93/SFCR_licence/?&lang=en

3. Evaluate if you need to have a Preventive Control Plan (PCP): These contain majority of the food safety requirements, and also consumer protection related sections. A written Preventive Controls Plan (PCP) is required for most businesses with CDN $100,000 in gross sales. As an evaluation aid to determine whether your business requires a PCP, use the Preventive Control Plan (PCP) Interactive Tool at: https://na1se.voxco.com/SE/93/SFCR_PCP/?&lang=en.

4. See if you have to meet any other food-specific preventive controls: There may be additional commodity-related food-safety and/or market fairness controls associated with –

  • Dairy products
  • Egg and processed egg products
  • Fish
  • Fresh fruits or vegetables
  • Honey
  • Maple
  • Meat products
  • Processed fruit or vegetable products

For more information on “food-specific preventive controls,” check out the CFIA link at: http://inspection.gc.ca/food/requirements-and-guidance/preventive-controls-food-businesses/eng/1526472289805/1526472290070.

5. Check if you comply with the traceability requirements: Almost all food businesses must track their food products, materials, and ingredients along the supply chain, at least, one-step forward to the person to whom the food was provided, and one-step backward to the immediate supplier. Comprehensive and complete traceability documentation and records must be kept for at least 2 years. As an evaluation aid, use the Traceability Interactive Tool at: https://na1se.voxco.com/SE/93/traceability/?&lang=en.

6. Become aware of the SFCR compliance timelines for your business: Though some requirements were to be met immediately by Jan. 15, 2019, others are being phased in over a period of 12-30 months. The timelines or complying with licensing, preventive controls, preventive control plan and traceability requirements vary by food, activity, and size of the food business.

Provided below is a Phased Implementation Chart based on sector, size and gross revenue of the food business:

 

 

 

ELEMENT

Meat, Fish, Eggs, Dairy, Processed Fruit or Vegetable Products, Honey, Maple Products

 

 

 

Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

ALL OTHER FOODS

 

 

>$100K and

>5 employees

 

 

>$100K and

<5 employees

 

 

<$100K

License

Jan. 15, 2019

Jan. 15, 2019

July 15, 2020

July 15, 2020

July 15, 2020

Traceability

Jan. 15, 2019

(Jan. 15, 2020 for growers and harvesters only)

 

July 15, 2020

 

 

July 15, 2020

 

 

July 15, 2020

 

Preventive Controls

Jan. 15, 2019

Jan. 15, 2020

July 15, 2020

July 15, 2021

July 15, 2021

Written Preventive Control Plan

 

Jan. 15, 2019

 

Jan. 15, 2020

 

July 15, 2020

 

July 15, 2021

 

Not required

Source: Canadian Food Inspection Agency: ‘Phased Implementation by Sector and Business Size: Presentation to Canadian Society of Custom Brokers’, August 23, 2018

Note that almost all the requirements of the Safe Foods for Canadians Regulations shall come into effect for all remaining food business sectors by July 15, 2020.

For more information on specific SFCR timetables, refer to the CFIA website at: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/timelines/eng/1528199762125/1528199763186.

How can Remco help you?

Remco provides specialized solutions and products including color-coded tools for cleaning and material handling where hygiene and safety are critical. We have a 30-year+ partnership with Vikan, a global leader in supplying hygienically designed products. Our combined experience and focus on hygienic design make it a natural partnership and strengthens our ability to provide comprehensive solutions to food processors.

We can assist you in complying with the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations requirements:

Our library of white papers and articles are designed to help you find the right solutions to your food safety challenges. Download our white papers and read our articles at the Remco Knowledge Center, http://remcoproducts.com/knowledge-center/.

Some important white papers that could assist in complying with the Canadian food safety regulatory requirements are as follows –

  • Understanding GMPs in Food Processing:

https://remcoproducts.com/white-paper-understanding-gmps-in-food-processing/

  • HACCP Planning for Food Safety:

https://remcoproducts.com/white-paper-haccp-planning-for-food-safety/

https://remcoproducts.com/ust-white-paper/

  • Color-Coding Toolkit for Food Processing Facilities:

https://remcoproducts.com/toolkit/

By making information on the latest safety news, regulations, and best practices accessible via our social media and our website, we hope to provide the industry with the required support. If you require any technical assistance and additional information about our products and services, kindly contact us at cs@remcoproducts.com

Essential Information

Government of Canada’s Role in Assuring Safe Food for Canadians:

The Public Health Agency of Canada conducts outbreak surveillance and provides advice to protect people’s health.

Health Canada develops food safety standards and policies to help prevent or significantly reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) carries out inspection of the food industry to ensure that it meets its food safety requirements and responsibilities.

Key Terminologies

SFCA: Safe Food for Canadians Act, S-11, is an enabling law enacted to protect Canadian families from potentially unsafe food. This new act received Royal Assent on Nov. 22, 2012.

SFCR: Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SOR/2018-108) document was published on June 13, 2018, and came into force on Jan. 15, 2019. These contain the administrative provisions of SFCA that simplify, modernize, and streamline Canadian food safety regulations for the benefit of consumers, regulators, food businesses, global importers, and exporters.

SFCR License: This is issued by the CFIA to a food business whose activities are subject to the new Canadian regulations. Generally, compliance is required of establishments that manufacture, process, treat, preserve, grade, package or label food to be exported or sent across provincial or territorial borders. Also, it applies to companies that deal with intra-provincially traded foods where traceability, labelling and advertising provisions of SFCR could also apply.

Traceability: This is one of the three key requirements of SFCR (besides Licensing and Preventive Controls) required of food businesses. Almost all food businesses must track their food products, materials and ingredients along the supply chain, at least, one-step forward to the person to whom the food was provided, and one-step backward to the immediate supplier.

Preventive Controls: These are measures that help to prevent food safety hazards and reduce the likelihood of contaminated food entering the market, whether they are prepared within or outside of Canada.

GMPs: Also called “pre-requisite programs,” these are general food safety controls that relate to the people, establishment and the procedural practices or required prior to developing a robust HACCP plan. Examples of GMPs include sanitation and pest control, hygiene etc.

HACCP: Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points is a management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product.

Market Fairness PCPs: These represent non-food safety related regulatory provisions necessary for consumer protection or market acceptability. Examples include: labelling, grading, packaging, and standards of identity.

U.S.-Canada Comparable Food Safety System Recognition: Systems recognition involves reviewing a foreign country’s food safety regulatory system to determine if it has legal authorities and regulatory tools comparable to domestic requirements. For example, the FDA has an arrangement with CFIA and Health Canada that they recognize each other’s food safety systems and that they can leverage each other’s science-based regulatory systems.

 

Selected References

Canadian Food Inspection Agency, CFIA website: www.inspection.gc.ca

CFIA (2018). Understanding the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations – A Handbook for Food Businesses. Link: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/DAM/DAM-aboutcfia-sujetacia/STAGING/text-texte/regs_safe_food_regulations_handbook_business_1531429195095_eng.pdf

Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR), Link: https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-2018-108/page-1.html