Safe Food for Canadians (SFC) licence to import food to Canada
Customs Notice 20-01


  1. This Customs Notice replaces CN 19-01 Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)'s Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) coming into force on .
  2. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)’s Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) came into force on . Under the SFCR, new requirements apply to businesses and individuals importing food into Canada. Some exemptions apply, as noted in paragraph 9 of this notice.
  3. The purpose of this Customs Notice is to advise commercial importers that as of , a SFC licence is mandatory to import certain foods into Canada. Shipments without an SFC licence may experience delays or refusal of entry at the border, and importers may be subject to enforcement actions.
  4. Licences/registrations issued under previous CFIA food legislation (e.g. Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Regulations, Dairy Products Regulations), are no longer valid for registered foods.
  5. A Safe Food for Canadians (SFC) licence is required for the import of certain foods, including meat products, fish and seafood, dairy products, shell eggs, processed egg products, fresh fruits and vegetables, processed fruits and vegetables, honey and maple products, as identified in the CFIA's Automated Import Reference System (AIRS).
  6. To determine whether you need a licence and how to apply for one, please refer to the CFIA's licensing interactive tool. Importers requiring an SFC licence are encouraged to submit their application as soon as possible to avoid delays or rejection of shipments at the border.
  7. Businesses must obtain their SFC licence before presenting their shipment at the border. They will not be able to obtain an SFC licence at the border.
    • Note: The SFC licence number must be declared exactly as it was issued by the CFIA. All of the numbers and letters must be entered correctly on the import declaration.
  8. SFC licence applications normally take up to 15 business days to process, but can take longer if a pre-licence inspection is required
  9. The SCFR identifies the following as general exemptions to licencing requirements:
    • food that is imported as part of the personal effects of an immigrant
    • food that is carried on any conveyance and is intended for the crew or passengers
    • food that is intended and used for analysis, evaluation, research, or a trade show, provided that the food is part of a shipment that weighs 100 kg or less or, in the case of eggs, is part of a shipment of five or fewer cases
    • food that is not intended or sold for human consumption
    • food that is imported from the United States onto the Akwesasne Reserve by a permanent resident of the Reserve for their use
    • food that is imported in bond (in transit) for use by crew or passengers of a cruise ship or military ship in Canada
    • transporting a food commodity, if that is the sole activity of a person or business (i.e. commercial carriers).
  10. Please note that, even if exempted from the SFCR requirements, food imports remain subject to CFIA requirements under the Health of Animals Act, Plant Protection Act and their associated regulations, as well as all other government department legislation.
  11. Importers are advised to continue to consult the CFIA's Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) for food import requirements.
  12. For paper transactions, importers are required to complete a CFIA 5272, Request for Documentation Review (PDF) for foods that are indicated as "Refer to CFIANISC" in AIRS. This form is to be faxed to the CFIA's National Import Service Centre (NISC). The NISC will conduct a documentation review and return a recommendation by stamping the CFIA 5272. The stamped 5272 must then be presented to the CBSA as part of the release request.
  13. Please consult the CFIA’s website for further details on commercially importing food to Canada.
  14. Travellers can consult the CFIA's website for information on importing of food, plants, animals and related products to Canada for personal use.
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