Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Regulations

Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Regulations

Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Regulations

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulates the importation and exportation of plant, animal, and food products.

Regulated commodities for importation are identified in the CFIA’s Automated Import Reference System (AIRS). This automated searchable database lists the import requirements for specific commodities. If AIRS prompts you to ‘Refer to CFIA-ISC’, this means that you must send a release request to the National Import Service Centre (NISC) prior to importation, and it must be accompanied by the documentation indicated. Each importation must have its own release request which can be presented by either the importer or the broker. The NISC will not grant release approval for regulated commodities if they have not been presented to the NISC at the first point of arrival (FPOA) in Canada.

The rules and policies for the exportation of plant, animal, and food products are dependent on, but not limited to, the following:

  • the exact type of plant, animal, or food product(s) being shipped
  • the quantity and end-use of the product
  • additional information and/or documentation required by the country for which the products are destined

Additional guidance is available on the CFIA Exporting food, plants or animals website

Almost all applications for documentation/permissions (licenses, permits, registrations, authorizations, export certificates) required for regulated commodities, can be submitted using the My CFIA online service portal. The portal is available 24/7 and enables users to track, manage, re-use applications, and pay any service fees. It is important to note that there are some applications that the CFIA will only accept through the portal and not by fax or email. For a complete list of online services and how to register for and use My CFIA, please visit the CFIA website.

Additional Information

AIRS database
The CFIA Request for Release (Form 5272)
NISC location, hours of operation and contact information
CFIA website

Food Products

On January 15, 2019, the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) under the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA), came into force. Under the new regulations, businesses that import and/or export food for human consumption as the importer of record (resident or non-resident) or that trade food interprovincially, may require updates to their existing licenses or be required to apply for new SFCR licenses. In addition, preventative controls and traceability measures may be needed for certain commodities to ensure a sufficient process is in place to prevent and address food safety concerns. To learn more please read our SFCR article.

When exporting food from Canada, additional information and/or documentation (i.e., export certificates) may be required depending on the type of food being shipped and/or the destination country. To help exporters determine the requirements for shipping food products, the CFIA has created a food export requirements library and a step-by-step guide for exporting food. 

Goods Contaminated With Soil

The importation of items contaminated with soil is prohibited. Certain exceptions may apply to plants for planting and root crops. For more information, refer to the CFIA directive D-08-04.

Beginning February 1, 2011, items contaminated with soil (non-compliant goods) will be restricted to a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)-controlled area for inspection and possible on-site cleaning by a CFIA-approved wash facility. If certain conditions are not met, such as no risk of soil dislodgement or the availability of an approved wash facility, the contaminated goods will be refused entry into Canada. All costs associated with any cleaning, or the removal of the goods from Canada, will be the responsibility of the importer. For more information, refer to the CFIA directive D-95-26.

Seed Pre-Clearance

On November 25, 2011, the CFIA implemented a new pre-clearance procedure for imported seed (prior to arrival at the border providing that the Canadian import requirements have been met). The Import Conformity Assessment (ICA) process includes the review of all mandatory documents (specifically the import declaration and the seed analysis certificate). If the shipment meets the Canadian import requirements then the CFIA will issue a Notice of Import Conformity. Once this Notice is issued, the seed can be planted, repackaged, or sold in Canada. For verification purposes, a copy of this Notice must accompany the shipment at the time of arrival in Canada. For more information, visit the CFIA website.

Plant and Animal Importations

Beginning in January 2012, in addition to the detailed commodity description, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will require the scientific species name of each plant and/or animal (including their products or derivatives) to appear on the Commercial Invoice. For more information, please refer to the CBSA Memorandum D1-4-1