Of all of the possible products to import into Canada, food and agricultural products might be the most regulated. After all, these products have the greatest potential to endanger people’s health.
Nevertheless, there is ample opportunity to build your import-export business on importing food to Canada if you follow the proper guidelines. Food and agricultural products are always going to be in high demand…and Canadians are constantly on the lookout for new foods, healthier foods, and more allergy-friendly foods.
Should you choose to begin importing food into Canada, it’s important to be aware of the extensive rules and regulations you need to follow–and avoid making crippling mistakes.
Here are 8 mistakes to avoid when importing food and agricultural products into Canada.
1. Not obtaining your SFC license on time.
Once you decide which products you’ll be importing to Canada, you’ll need to obtain your Safe Food for Canadians (SFC) license. Although this license is not necessary for certain food items, it is required for meat products, fish and seafood, dairy products, eggs, processed egg products, fresh fruits and vegetables, processed fruits and vegetables, and honey and maple products.
You can apply for your SFC license here. It typically takes about 15 days to process. If you neglect to obtain your SFC license before your shipment reaches the border, your shipment may experience delays or refusal of entry. Apply as early as possible to be on the safe side.
Is your business based outside Canada? Find out how to become a non resident importer in Canada here.
2. Not preparing for food hazards.
As an importer, you need to be fully aware of all of the details related to your product. You should know the answers to all of these questions before you begin importing:
- What type of food is it?
- How much will you be importing?
- What type of packaging will you use?
- What are the potential hazards surrounding this food?
- Where is the food being sent from?
- Does the food need to be processed in Canada to meet requirements?
It is especially crucial to be aware of all the potential hazards your product might face so you can plan accordingly. If you’re importing meat, for example, make sure you have a plan for cold shipping it…and a plan if it gets held at the border for several days.
3. Being unaware of Canadian food requirements.
There are tons of food requirements when it comes to importing food to Canada, and you need to be knowledgeable about all of them. Do all of the research necessary to make sure you don’t inadvertently miss any requirements that could put your shipments at risk.
There are specific requirements for each type of food. Consult this list of food-specific import requirements as well as following the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations and the Food and Drug Regulations. Use the Industry Labeling Tool to determine which requirements you need to meet in terms of standards, grades, net quantity, and labeling.
Keep in mind there may be exemptions from certain guidelines that could benefit you. If your product will help to alleviate a food shortage due to COVID-19, you may not need to meet all of the labeling, packaging, and grading requirements if you can prove your product is otherwise safe.
4. Throwing away records.
One of the keys to the success of any import-export business is keeping all records, evidence, and documentation so you can show authorities in the event an issue arises. This is especially important when importing food to Canada. All records need to be accessible in Canada for at least two years.
Here is a list of the traceability records you need to keep:
- The name and address of the vendor who sold the food to you along with the date it was sold
- The name and address of the person to whom you transferred responsibility for the food after it was imported (if you are not selling the food in your own store)
- Other necessary records will depend on the type of food being imported and can be found here
Wondering which type of insurance your import-export business needs? Click here.
5. Not creating a PCP.
It is mandatory for all food importers to create a preventive control plan (PCP). This document demonstrates how all risks to food are identified and controlled. Your PCP should include:
- A description of consumer protection as well as packaging and labeling controls
- A description of any hazards and associated control measures to prevent them
- A procedure for regularly verifying that your PCP is effective
- Documents proving that your PCP has been implemented
- Supporting documents to show evidence of the information above
- A description of foreign supplier food safety controls and procedures
It’s not enough to simply create a PCP; you need to actually do what you say you’re going to do. Not properly implementing your PCP can cause future problems. Don’t forget to reassess and update your PCP regularly.
6. Choosing the wrong supplier.
As with all importing and exporting, finding a great supplier is essential. In the case of importing food to Canada, your supplier will need to do all of the following activities in alignment with Canada’s regulations:
- Manufacturing the food
- Preparing the food
- Storing the food
- Packaging the food
- Labeling the food
Again, all of these areas need to meet the same standards as food manufacturers in Canada. Unless you are importing meat or shellfish, you should be able to import from any country so long as the above conditions are met. Importing meat or shellfish is only allowed from certain countries.
Are you looking to import or export live animals? Find our complete guide here.
7. Leaving out any required information.
You are responsible for providing all of the necessary information about your food shipments to both the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Remember, documentation is key.
Consult the Automated Import Reference System to find all of the required information and documentation for your specific shipments. That way, you won’t be blindsided at the border by an issue you could have prevented.
8. Ignoring customer complaints.
This one is a big no-no. It is mandatory to keep a record of any complaints you receive regarding your products. Every time you receive a complaint, you need to determine whether the food poses a risk to the health of Canadians. If it does, immediately notify the CFIA.
Whenever you follow up on a complaint, keep a record of the process you implemented. You should also have a recall procedure that can be enforced in the event of a recall. Once every 12 months, you must simulate a recall to ensure your recall procedure is effective and keep records of the simulation.
Importing food into Canada is complicated, no doubt about it. Let us make it easier for you. At BorderBuddy, we take care of the details of the customs process so you don’t have to. What are you waiting for? Give us a call today.