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Importing Food to Canada? Ensure It Is Not Rejected!

In less than two months, you will not be able to import certain foods into Canada if you do not have a valid Safe Food for Canadians (SFC) licence issued by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) that has been entered into the Integrated Import Declaration (IID).

Currently, importers are required to possess a CFIA-issued SFC licence for any SFCR-regulated food before presenting the shipment at the border. Starting March 15, 2021, CFIA will automatically reject any meat, fish, dairy, eggs, processed eggs, processed fruits or vegetables, honey, maple, and fresh fruits if the licence has not been entered into the IID. Originally scheduled to go into effect July 15, 2020, the requirement was delayed because of COVID-19; this requirement applies to food shipped into Canada by both Canadian and non-resident businesses.

The licence must be valid (without mistakes or typos), cover the activity “importing food,” and cover any commodities intended for import. The licence must be acquired before presenting a shipment at the border; you cannot obtain an SFC licence at the border. If rejected, the licence holder may experience delays and have related food shipments held at the border until the error is addressed and the import transaction is resubmitted. 

When entering the eight-digit alpha-numeric licence number into the IID, the licence number must be entered into the “Registration Number" field exactly as it was issued, without any additional words or characters. If an invalid number is entered, you will be notified by a “reject message” sent through the importer or customs broker’s IID system. That said, it is a good idea to double-check and, if necessary, update your SFC licence profile to ensure your number is entered and correct. This can be done at My CFIA portal, and there is no fee to do so. (CFIA provides guidance on renewing or amending the information here.)

U.S. and other non-resident businesses wanting to ship food into Canada must still select the field “Importing Food” on the licence, along with the food commodity or commodities intended for import. Do not select “Exporting Food” which applies to sending food out from Canada to another country.

CFIS has also developed a document with further direction on importing food using an SFC licence. For example, in the past, an importer could simply enter a “Y” in the registration number field. This is no longer accepted, nor can the field be left blank. Additionally, the document explains Reject Messages that may be received along with the reason for the rejection and corrective action to be taken. More information on food business licenses required under the SFCR also is available on the CFIA website.

Should you have any difficulty or need any assistance, TAG has offices in Canada with food regulatory experts who can be of assistance.  Contact TAG Canada.

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