CFIA Suspensions: Is Your Business Susceptible?
While CFIA suspending, cancelling or refusing to renew a registration is not common – with only one business facing a suspension in 2022, 15 food businesses felt the brunt of CFIA’s enforcement in 2021. The most common reasons for suspension were lack of or inadequate preventive control plan, and failure to take corrective action which can lead to further suspension or even cancellation of an establishment’s licence or registration.
CFIA lists five general reasons that it may take such action, including the providing of false information to CFIA or an operator’s failure to maintain and operate the facility in accordance with regulatory requirements; comply with other requirements of the acts or regulations enforced by the CFIA; provide reasonable assistance to enable the CFIA to carry out its duties; or pay required CFIA fees.
In the suspensions of the last year, the top reason leading to the suspension of six establishments was the failure to adequately prepare or implement a preventive control plan as required by the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR). As detailed, the businesses “did not prepare a compliant preventive control plan”; “did not prepare and implement a hazard analysis critical control plan as part of the written preventative control plan”; or “did not demonstrate effective implementation of the Preventive Control Plan (PCP) nor provide the documents to substantiate implementation of that PCP.”
These suspensions illustrate that CFIA is including thorough PCP reviews in its inspection and enforcing the requirements – not only to have a comprehensive plan but to ensure all required aspects are included and it is being effectively implemented and documented (as shown in infographic below). Completing each step of the plan is critical, as is evidenced by the suspension for the establishment not having prepared or implemented a hazard analysis, as noted above.
We would expect more of these to be uncovered in coming months, particularly among those whose importing businesses took a hiatus during the pandemic, so did not finish or update their PCP. Once CFIA began inspecting again, these came to light with companies required to take corrective action and inform CFIA. One reason for the occurrence is that it was very easy for businesses to get licensed online, but some never took the next step to develop their PCP – and it is now coming back to haunt them.
While putting a focus on PCPs, CFIA is continuing to inspect and cite businesses for failure to adhere to the basics as well, as shown by the suspension for a licence holder’s failure to “comply with operational sanitation procedures to prevent cross-contamination of food and preventive control measures for the detection of E. coli and the detection of temperature deviations.”
When deficiencies are identified by CFIA, the operator is provided with the opportunity to take corrective measures. In some cases, the operator may be given time to do so without getting a suspension. However, failure to do so can then result in a suspension, as with the following CFIA citations in which the business failed to implement effective corrective measures or correct deficiencies previously identified by CFIA.
Once a licence is suspended by CFIA for whatever reason, the business will be given 90 days to take corrective action. Once measures have been taken to CFIA satisfaction, the suspension will be lifted. If action is not taken within 90 days, CFIA may cancel the licence.
This occurred three times in 2021. The businesses had initially been suspended for failure to produce documents or information ordered for a food safety investigation and for obstruction of a CFIA inspector; failure to comply with SFCR recall processes, traceability, and labelling; and failure for a non-resident importer to have a fixed place of business within Canada. All non-resident importers, except those of the U.S., must have a Canadian address and accountable Canadian person or entity.
As CFIA states in its suspension and cancellation notices, “Licence holders are responsible for ensuring they comply with Canada’s food laws. The CFIA is committed to enforcing those laws.”
With the SFCR having come into force only three years ago (January 15, 2019), with two of those years upended by the pandemic, businesses are still working through many of the more complex requirements of the rules. If you have questions on compliance, would like assessment of or assistance with your PCP, or could use support in other regulatory areas, give TAG Canada a call. We can help.