Bill S-11 has a worthy aim: to protect Canadians against unsafe food. But the Safe Food for Canadians Act will affect thousands of businesses that have no idea the new law will apply to them.

The House of Commons passed this legislation in November to accomplish several goals: to ensure the safety of the food supply; modernize the regulatory framework for food safety; and bring Canada’s systems and processes in line with those of our major trading partners, particularly the U.S. But in order to achieve these laudable aims, the act includes far-reaching provisions that will affect businesses well beyond ones in such obvious sectors as food processing and grocery retailing.

Your company could be one of them.

For instance, you may run a small retail business that imports a variety of specialty items, including foods. Your firm may distribute camping supplies, including imported freeze-dried camping food. Or your pharmacy’s offerings may include a few lines of imported foods. All these businesses will be affected by the new act.

To give some teeth to the legislation, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is now putting regulations into place. In the first stage, it will publish for consultation licensing requirements for importers of food in the non-federally registered sector. At a later date not yet announced, CFIA will finalize a new inspection framework that will provide businesses with a model of how food companies in Canada will need to operate.

Under the new act, importers and exporters of food and food products will need to be licensed, and so will any domestic food producers that ship food products across provincial boundaries. The licence will likely need to be renewed every two years.

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