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How to navigate food rules for any business

(NC) When running a business, rules, regulations and red tape seem to come with the territory. While navigating that can be a challenge, these requirements play an important part in ensuring the Canadian marketplace is safe, consistent and fair to everyone.

For food businesses, following these rules helps keep our food system safe. Depending on your product(s), where you are selling them and where you are located, your business may need to comply with various federal, provincial and municipal requirements.

The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) are a streamlined set of federal food safety rules to make them easier for businesses to navigate. Here are the basics on how to do that:

1. Start by confirming which rules apply
In general, the SFCR apply to all businesses that import, export or trade food between provinces or territories. This includes manufactured foods such as snacks, coffee, cereals and pastas. Requirements may vary, but they typically include a licence, preventive controls and traceability requirements. Start your understanding by confirming what requirements you need to meet.

2. Prepare to apply for a licence
For businesses that require a licence (which is most), the application is done through an online portal. If you don’t already have a My CFIA account, sign up for one online. The application must include the business’ activities that require a licence, the location where they will occur, the types of food involved and an attestation that the business has preventive controls in place for food safety.

3. Create a preventive control plan
Preventive controls help make it less likely that contaminated food enters the market. Most businesses must have a preventive control plan (PCP) that documents how they identify and control risks to food and food animals. While some small businesses may not need a written plan, they must still have controls in place. This step is usually required even for food businesses that don’t need a licence.

4. Create a traceability plan if applicable
In case of a recall or food safety investigation, businesses must be able to trace the movement of a food product. As the food system has many steps, and a product may be processed and packaged in different places, keeping track of where it’s been and where it’s going is essential to quickly protect consumers and limit financial losses if a problem occurs. The records must be maintained for two years.

Business owners can find more information and tools to understand these steps at inspection.canada.ca.

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