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How Does the SFCR Impact Food Start Ups?

Updated: May 15

The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations are relatively new in Canada and came into force in 2019. The SFCR has significant impact on food companies who are scaling up their food production and distribution from local to outside of their province.

Who does it apply to?

  • Companies who manufacture food to be shipped across provincial borders.

  • Companies who manufacture food to be shipped out of Canada.

  • Companies who import food or ingredients into Canada.

What is required?

  • Companies that meet the SFCR Regulations can apply for a license at My CFIA.

  • Licensed companies will be placed on the Safe Food for Canadians License Registry.

  • Licensed companies will receive a CFIA inspection based on the SFCR requirements.

  • Failure to pass the CFIA inspection may result in loss of license and loss of regulatory approval to ship outside of province.

What is in the regulations?

The regulations are complex, but there are three main components:

  • License: Required for food manufacturers who ship out of their province, companies that import food/ingredients into Canada and companies that export food.

  • Food Safety ("Preventive Controls"): The SFCR license holder must have a written and a effective food safety "Preventive Control Plan". During an inspection they must be able to provide all required documentation that shows the plan is in place and effective. (A company with a HACCP Food Safety Plan may meet many of the SFCR PCP requirements already.)

  • Traceability: Companies with a SFCR license AND companies who sell product to retailers within their province must have a system in place to track all ingredients purchased and products shipped to help with investigation in the case of a food safety issue.

What can brand owners do to meet the SFCR?

Brand owners that are looking for or working with a co-packer, should confirm that they have a SFCR license AND meet the SFCR regulations. Brand owners that self are manufacturing have options to consider:

  • Self educate and implement a SFCR Preventive Control Plan and Traceability system. The CFIA provides online resources to help food companies. For people new to the field this can be a large learning curve and could take hundreds of hours to build, and there is a risk that the result does not meet CFIA expectations.

  • Self educate and implement with occasional guidance from experts in the field. Some food consultants will customize an approach to meet a brand owners budget and timelines, by offering periodic reviews of efforts and guidance as requested.

  • Work with digital food safety service platforms. Some offer the service to build a customized Food Safety Plan (HACCP, PCP) into their platform (see related upcoming posts on digital food safety companies) and offer monthly subscription to document management.

  • Engage with food science teaching schools who might help you partner with co-op or intern students (see Resource Library posts on Recruitment)

  • Hire consultants to set up a Preventive Control Plan and Traceability system. This can be fast and high quality, but can be expensive and the manufacturer still needs to learn how to manage the PCP and Traceability systems.

  • Hire skilled project or full time staff to implement and manage a PCP and Traceability system. Look for someone with industry experience, or a graduate from a food science degree or food technology diploma who will have the background training needed.

The CFIA website is full of SFCR resources and the volume can be overwhelming. A good place to start is: Toolkit for food business

Or these short videos: SFCR

Written By: Marlis Bens, Venturepark Labs Program Manager


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