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CFIA, Fish Inspection Fees, Compositional Standards

CFIA Plan Enables More Equitable and Science-Forward Regulation

In its recently published Forward Regulatory Plan: 2024 to 2026 CFIA is taking some positive steps to right some wrongs related to fish inspection fees and to restructure food compositional standards to be more responsive to technological advances and consumer demand.

The plan, which includes anticipated regulatory initiatives that CFIA intends to propose or finalize within a two-year period, briefly describes each regulatory initiative and includes information such as those who may be affected, regulatory cooperation efforts undertaken or planned, opportunities for public consultation, links to related information or analysis, and CFIA contact information. The initiatives, which are associated with the CFIA’s multi‑year plan to review existing regulations are open to comment. TAG sees two of these as being of greatest impact to segments of the food industry.

Fish Inspection Fee Initiative. Currently, CFIA fees for fish importers are based on the type of product and the type of licence held prior to enactment of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations. Under this system, importers who previously held the Quality Management Program for Importers (QMPI) licence were being charged less per kilogram declared than were importers who held a Basic licence. (See Table 2)

The proposed revision applies a consistent, uniform fee for all importers of fish and seafood products, removing the fees associated with the Basic license and maintaining the fee associated with those holding QMPI licence for all.

While the change would have no impact on those who are currently being charged the QMPI licence fee, those who were paying the fee associated with the Basic licence will see a significant reduction. However, because CFIA is also pursuing a broader modernization initiative, there could be more business impacts when that initiative takes place. CFIA anticipates summer 2024 publication of the amendment in the Canada Gazette, Part I.

With some fish and seafood importers having paid millions of dollars in extra fees over those years, TAG see this initiative as long overdue and a needed change.

Compositional Standards. Canada’s food compositional standards are currently structured under the Food and Drugs Act and Drug Regulations (FDR) which sets requirements (e.g. permitted ingredients, quality parameters, manufacturing methods, prescribed common names) for any foods to be imported or traded interprovincially. With such set parameters, the standards are not able to be responsive to manufacturing innovations, or to changes in consumer demand, international standards, or trading partner practices.

Additionally, the FDR framework, under which the compositional standards are held, does not allow for the updating of areas such as microbiological criteria and official methods of analysis to enable to reflect new science, innovation or emerging risks to health. 

To amend this issue and “create an agile framework for compositional standards,” CFIA is proposing to use incorporation by reference to allow the standards to be maintained and updated in a transparent, timely, and efficient manner. This proposal is not new, as it was included in the three phases of the Food Labelling Modernization consultations in 2013, 2014 and 2016 to 2017, along with notification to the World Trade Organization.

CFIA sees this as having no immediate impact on Canadians, as the amendment is not making a compositional standards change, it is simply allowing for such changes when warranted. The amendment is also seen as contributing to international trade by enabling the alignment of Canada’s compositional standards with those of international standards bodies and major trading partners.

The proposed amendments were pre-published in the Canada Gazette, Part I on November 4, 2023, following a public CFIA/Health Canada information session, with a 90-day comment period following the publication. CFIA anticipates final publication of the amendments in fall 2024.

TAG Canada sees both the fees adjustment and compositional standards restructuring as positive steps for the food industry, providing a more equitable approach for importers and enabling the industry to keep pace with current science and technology in the development and improvements in foods.


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