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Frequently Asked Questions

About the CFIA | Access to Information and Privacy | Animal Health | Biotechnology | Chemical Residues | Food Safety | Forestry | Plant Health


About the CFIA

What does the CFIA do?

CFIA delivers 14 inspection programs related to foods, plants and animals across Canada. Our role is to enforce the food safety and nutritional quality standards established by Health Canada and, for animal health and plant protection, to set standards and carry out enforcement and inspection.

The scope of our mandate is vast and complex. Activities range from the inspection of federally-registered meat processing facilities to border inspections for foreign pests and diseases, to the enforcement of practices related to fraudulent labelling. We also verify the humane transportation of animals, conduct food investigations and recalls, perform laboratory testing and environmental assessments of seeds, plants, feeds and fertilizers. We regulate the import, export and domestic movement of horticulture, forestry and plant products where they are regulated. We also work with exotic pest introductions and the control or eradication of quarantine pests. In a nutshell, we're Canada's federal food safety, animal health and plant protection enforcement agency.

For more information on the CFIA, see our Corporate brochure, Science and regulation... working together for Canadians

Where can I find out about employment opportunities with the CFIA?

For information on employment opportunities with the CFIA, please go to http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/hrrh/employmente.shtml.

Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP)

What is Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP)?

The Access to Information Act gives Canadian citizens as well as people and corporations present in Canada the right to have access to information in federal government records. The Act ensures that people can ask for information and, if it is not exempt or excluded, the federal government must let them see it or give them a copy.

Exemptions - Exemptions protect certain types of information that could cause harm if released. For example, some information on national security, law enforcement or trade secrets falls into this category.

Exclusions - The Act does not apply to information that is already available publicly, such as web sites, publications or material in libraries and museums.

The Privacy Act gives Canadian citizens and people present in Canada the right to have access to information that is held about them by the federal government. The Act also protects against unauthorized disclosure of personal information. In addition, it strictly controls how the government will collect, use, store, disclose and dispose of any personal information.

In general, the Access to Information Act allows for 30 calendar days (21 or 22 working days) between receipt of an ATIP request and the release of documents. An extension may be required for consultation with third parties and other departments.

How do I make an ATIP request?

In many cases, you will be able to find the information you are looking for by searching the CFIA website or by contacting the CFIA using our on-line feedback form.

Some examples of information requests that may require the submission of an ATIP request include:

  • a consumer would like a copy of the CFIA investigation following a complaint about a food product
  • a student would like some research material on rabies testing in Canada
  • a journalist would like information about federally-registered meat establishments

To make a formal Access to Information request or a Privacy Request, you can use the following forms:

Please note: All requests made under the Access to Information Act must be accompanied by a cheque or money order in the amount of $5.00 payable to Receiver General for Canada.

Once your form has been completed, please mail with the applicable fees to the following address:

Access to Information and Privacy Services
Corporate Administration Division
CFIA, Corporate Services Branch
1400 Merivale Road, Tower 1, Room 0-149
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0Y9

Should you have any questions about Access to Information and Privacy, please contact the ATIP Coordinator.

Animal Health

Who do I call if I want to import a pet?

For information on pet imports, go to: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/anima/imp/petani/petanie.shtml

You can also contact the CFIA National Import Service Centre (NISC) toll-free at: 1-800-835-4486 or contact your nearest CFIA district office.

Biotechnology

What is the CFIA’s role in the regulation of genetically modified foods?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) shares responsibility for the regulation of products derived from biotechnology including plants, animal feeds and animal feed ingredients, fertilizers and veterinary biologics. For genetically modified crop plants, the CFIA assesses the potential risk of adverse environmental effects; authorizes and oversees import permits, confined trials, unconfined release and variety registration. To view the complete list of regulated plants with novel traits see: http://active.inspection.gc.ca/eng/plaveg/bio/pntvcne.asp

Health Canada is responsible for assessing the human health safety of products derived through biotechnology including foods, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices and pest control products. In the case of novel foods, each safety assessment considers the process used to develop the novel food, its characteristics compared to those of its traditional counterpart, its nutritional quality, the potential presence of any toxicants or anti-nutrients, and the potential allergenicity of any proteins introduced into the food.

Chemical Residues

Where can I find detailed information about CFIA activities to determine pesticide residues in foods ?

A description of CFIA's monitoring activities can be found at: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/microchem/ncrmpe.shtml.

The surveillance program highlights can be viewed at: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/microchem/programe.shtml.

Where can I find Canadian Maximum Residue Limits (MRL) information for pesticides and veterinary drugs ?

Canadian Maximum Residue Limits data can be obtained from Division 15 of the Food and Drug Regulations.

  1. heavy metals: Section B.15.001 - Table 1
  2. agricultural chemicals: Section B.15.002 - Table 2
  3. veterinary drugs: Section B.15.003 - Table 3

Where can I find reports about pesticides residues found in food commodities consumed in Canada?

CFIA’s National Chemical Residue Monitoring Program annual residue reports can be viewed at: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/microchem/resid/reside.shtml.

Food Safety

How do I report a potential food safety incident?

If you believe a product presents a health and safety risk, you can report a potential food safety incident to the CFIA:

  • by contacting an area recall coordinator
  • through the Internet at cfiamaster@inspection.gc.ca
  • by telephone at 1-800-442-2342

If you suspect that your health has been compromised because of food, contact your family physician or local health authority who will follow-up with the appropriate treatment. You can report any concerns about restaurant food to your local inspection authority. If they determine that food appears to be the likely cause of illness, they will contact the CFIA to initiate an investigation.

What food products can I bring into Canada?

Delivery of the Travellers' Program for the personal importation of food, plant and animal products has become the responsibility of the Canada Border Services Agency. For more information on the program, visit the Canada Border Services Agency's website or the Be Aware and Declare website.

What do I have to do to import a food product?

You can obtain information about import requirements by checking out the CFIA’s Guide to Importing Foods Commercially located on our web site.

The CFIA’s National Import Service Centre (NISC) located in Mississauga, Ontario handles telephone inquiries regarding import requirements for all commodities regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. You can reach the NISC toll-free number at 1-800-835-4486.

For more information on importing food, you can use the CFIA’s Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/imp/airse.shtml. AIRS is a tool which guides the user through a series of questions about the Harmonized System (HS) Codes, origin, destination, end use and miscellaneous qualifiers of the product they wish to import.

Can I prepare and sell food from my home?

All food sold in Canada must comply with the requirements of the Food and Drugs Act and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and their related regulations. You can review labelling related requirements in the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Guide to Food Labelling and Advertising. The Guide can be viewed at: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/bureau/labeti/guide/guidee.shtml

Before beginning a home-based food business, you should verify municipal and provincial licensing requirements. Health related requirements may also be regulated by your local health authority or board of health.

What is the CFIA’s role in labelling?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is responsible for the administration of food labelling policies related to misrepresentation and fraud in respect to food labelling, packaging and advertising (Food and Drugs Act), and the general agri-food and fish labelling provisions respecting grade, quality and composition, (Canada Agricultural Products Act, Meat Inspection Act and Fish Inspection Act). In addition, responsibility for the administration of the food related provisions of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, including basic food label information, net quantity, metrication and bilingual labelling was transferred to the CFIA from Industry Canada in 1999.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is also responsible for the enforcement of all of the above requirements at all trade levels.

Health Canada is responsible for the administration of health and safety standards and the development of food labelling policies related to health and nutrition under the Food and Drugs Act.

For more information on labelling, check out the CFIA’s Guide to Food Labelling and Advertising on the CFIA web site at http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/labeti/guide/toce.shtml

Does the CFIA regulate the use of vitamins and minerals in foods?

The Food Directorate of Health Canada regulates the use of vitamins and minerals in foods. For more information, visit the Health Canada website. The CFIA enforces requirements regarding the use of vitamins and minerals in foods.

Forestry

How do I import or export wood and forestry products?

The CFIA Forestry Section has developed policy directives (D-memos) that outline the requirements for the movement of regulated commodities (import, export, and domestic movement). You will find the more common directives that cover the majority of regulated commodities of the CFIA Forestry Sector on our website at: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/plaveg/for/fore.shtml

There are specific requirements for wood packaging materials coming into Canada and going to other countries.

You can review import requirements for specific forestry products using the CFIA's Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) at: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/imp/airse.shtml. By following the appropriate prompts, you will be able to determine current requirements based on the type of product and the size of shipment you intend to import.

Should you have additional questions after reviewing this web page, you can contact the Forestry Section directly using the information found at: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/plaveg/for/offbure.shtml

Plant Health

How do I report a plant pest?

Plant pests can usually be divided into two categories - nuisance and exotic. The CFIA is most concerned with the reporting of exotic (foreign) pests. Prior to contacting the CFIA, you may want to check with your local plant nursery, municipal horticulturist or the provincial agricultural specialist located in your area to determine if the pest is either nuisance or exotic. Exotic pests are usually introduced to an area through imported products or crating. Try to contain your pest specimen to submit for identification. Please note that some insects can chew through plastic bags.

If you or your local horticulturist suspects that the pest may be exotic, contact your nearest CFIA district office (listed in most phone books in the Government of Canada blue pages) and ask for a plant health specialist. A list of CFIA offices can also be found on the CFIA website at http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/directory/offbure.shtml

How do I import plants or plant products?

The CFIA’s Plant Import Unit issues Permits to Import in accordance with national policy guidelines under provision of the Plant Protection Act and Regulations. The Unit is also responsible for plant protection import control and enforcement issues and provides interpretation and advice respecting the Plant Protection Act and Regulations.

You will find the more common plant import information and policy directives on our website at: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/plaveg/impe.shtml

You can review import requirements for specific plant products using the CFIA's Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) at: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/imp/airse.shtml. By following the appropriate prompts, you will be able to determine current requirements based on the type of product and the size of shipment you intend to import.

Should you have additional questions after reviewing this web page, you can contact the National Import Service Centre directly using the information found at: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/imp/importe.shtml