Questions and Answers - Fish Import Program

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General

Q1: What is considered an import?

Fish and seafood products shipped into Canada from any other country for commercial purposes as food for direct human consumption or further processing are considered imports.

References: Fish Inspection Regulations

Q2: What imported product is not covered under the Fish Inspection Act and Regulations?

Imported fish products that are not covered under the Fish Inspection Act and Regulations would include:

  • fish product intended for personal consumption. This also includes product imported by foreign embassies or consulates for their personal use;
  • fish products not intended for human consumption such as bait or pet food;
  • fish products such as functional foods or nutraceuticals that are the responsibility of Health Canada;
  • products imported as trade samples;
  • fish products for research only.

Although these products do not fall under the jurisdiction of the CFIA, they are still considered an import and must be reported to Canada Border Services Agency.

References: Fish Inspection Regulations, Section 3.(2)
Fish Products Inspection Manual (FPIM) Chapter 3, Subject 1, Section 4.1

Q3: What is not considered an import?

Fish products that are not considered imports include the following:

  • shipments not defined by the Canada Border Services Agency as imports;
  • foreign products which remain in bond while being trans-shipped via Canada to another country;
  • Canadian goods that are produced for export to a foreign market and are subsequently returned to Canada by the initial exporter. Canadian goods returned to Canada by a different exporter is considered an import.
  • fish sold by a foreign vessel which is federally registered with the CFIA.

Licencing Requirements

Q1: When do I need an import licence?

An import licence is required when you want to bring into Canada any product that is considered an import (see Q1 and Q2). The import licence is required prior to importing fish into Canada.

An import licence will be required even if:

  • you are only importing a small amount of fish;
  • you are importing a mixture of food that has little fish;
  • you are only importing fish once a year.

References: Regulatory Directive - Canadian Regulatory Requirements for Fish Import Licence Holders (Basic Importers)
Fish Inspection Regulations, Section 6.(2)(d)

Q2: Why is an import licence required for the importation of fish products when other food stuff can be imported without a licence?

Fish products are legislated by the Fish Inspection Act and Regulations which require a fish import licence for the importation of fish. Regulatory requirements differ from one commodity to another, and it is the importer's responsibility to verify what requirements apply to their products.

References: Regulatory Directive - Canadian Regulatory Requirements for Fish Import Licence Holders (Basic Importers)

Q3: What kind of import licences are available?

There are two types of import licences available; a fish import licence (Basic Licence) and a Quality Management Program Import Licence (QMPI Licence).

Q4: What are the primary differences between a fish import licence and a Quality Management Program Import (QMPI)?

Both licences require importers to take on the full responsibilities to import product that meets Canadian regulatory requirements.

For a fish import licence, the importer cannot sell the product until they are notified by CFIA that the product can be sold in Canada. For a QMPI licence, the importer must develop and implement a Quality Management Plan that meets the QMPI reference standard, which includes the control of their imported product and conducting the product inspections in accordance with their accepted QMPI plan.

There is also a difference in the licence and product import fees.

References: Regulatory Directive - Canadian Regulatory Requirements for Fish Import Licence Holders (Basic Importers)
Regulatory Directive - Canadian Regulatory Requirements for Quality Management Program Import Licence Holders (QMPI Importers)

Q5: How do I apply for an import licence?

To apply for an import licence, importers must submit a complete licence application package to a local CFIA office. Prior to applying for an import licence, importers must understand their responsibilities, and all of the requirements of an import licence.

For detailed information on the requirements for a fish import licence refer to: Regulatory Directive - Canadian Regulatory Requirements for Fish Import Licence Holders (Basic Importers)

For detailed information on the requirements for a QMPI licence, please refer to: Regulatory Directive - Canadian Regulatory Requirements for Quality Management Program Import Licence Holders (QMPI Importers)

References: Regulatory Directive - Canadian Regulatory Requirements for Fish Import Licence Holders (Basic Importers)
Regulatory Directive - Canadian Regulatory Requirements for Quality Management Program Import Licence Holders (QMPI Importers)

Q6: How long does it take to get an import licence?

For a Fish import licence, it takes approximately 10 working days after the CFIA receives the licence application package for a licence to be issued. This time may vary depending on different factors: eg., the completeness of the application package, the nature of the licence application (new licence or renewal), and the complexity of the information to be reviewed in the licence application.

For a QMPI licence, it will depend on the complexity of the QMPI plan and the interactive process between the CFIA and the importer to verify that the QMPI plan meets the QMPI reference standard.

Q7: How long is my import licence valid for?

An import licence is valid for one year. The licence expires after one year and must be renewed every year.

References: Fish Inspection Regulations, Section 6.1 (2)

Q8: How do I renew my licence?

To renew your licence, you must submit a completed application form and relevant fees to the CFIA prior to the expiry date of your current licence.

CFIA will conduct a review of your import history and include a review of the results of the inspections conducted on your product. If there is a concern on your ability to import product that consistently meet Canadian requirements or to meet the license requirements, you may be asked to submit a written corrective action plan. Renewal of the licence will be contingent on the acceptance of the corrective action plan.

References: Regulatory Directive - Canadian Regulatory Requirements for Fish Import Licence Holders (Basic Importers)
Regulatory Directive - Canadian Regulatory Requirements for Quality Management Program Import Licence Holders (QMPI Importers)

Q9: Can a fish import licence be used to import product into a province other than the province where the licence was issued?

Yes, a fish import licence is valid for imports into all Canadian provinces.

Q10: Can I import fish products using someone else's import licence?

No, any person who imports fish product must be the owner of a valid import licence.

Import Notification

Q1: I have obtained an import licence and I am ready to import a product into Canada. What do I have to do?

You must notify CBSA prior to or at importation and you must notify the CFIA prior to, or within 48 hours of importation. To notify the CFIA you must complete a Fish Import Notification form with all of the details of your product and submit it to a CFIA inspection office.

Q2: The Fish Import Notification form requires me to fill in the "End Use" of my imported product. How do I know which "End Use" to mark on the Fish Import Notification if I will be selling to both restaurants and retail?

Mark both Retail and Food Service / Institutional use. Both end uses should be indicated if product will be sold at both locations.

Record Keeping Requirements

Q1: What kind of records do I have to keep for the products that I import into Canada?

If you are the holder of a fish import licence (Basic Licence), you must maintain product distribution and complaint records, as well as process control documentation in English or French. Please refer to the Regulatory Directive - Canadian Regulatory Requirements for Fish Import Licence Holders (Basic Importers), Section 4.7, for detailed information on your record keeping requirements.

If you are the holder of a QMPI Licence, please refer to the Regulatory Standard - QMPI Reference Standard, Element 7, for detailed information on your record keeping requirements

Q2: How long do I have to keep my records?

All records must be kept on file for a period of at least 3 years.

References: Recall Plans - Importers' Guide
Fish Inspection Regulations, Section 6.1 (3)

Q3: Where can I keep my records?

Records must be kept at any address in Canada. The address of the importer and the address where the records are kept can be two different locations. For example, your records could be kept at a broker' office as long as the broker's office is in Canada.

References: Regulatory Directive - Canadian Regulatory Requirements for Fish Import Licence Holders (Basic Importers), Section 4.7.1
Regulatory Standard - QMPI Reference Standard, Section 7.1

Process Control Documents

Q1: What are process control documents?

Process control documents are documents obtained from the producer that describe how the food safety hazards associated with their canned and ready-to-eat (RTE) products are controlled. For detailed information on process control documents, please refer to: Regulatory Guide - Process Control Document Requirements.

References: Regulatory Guide - Process Control Document Requirements

Q2: Do I need process control documents for all my imported product?

Process control documents are only required for canned and ready to eat products. They are not required for other types of products such as raw or live fish.

References: Regulatory Directive - Canadian Regulatory Requirements for Fish Import Licence Holders (Basic Importers), Section 4.7.3
Regulatory Guide - Process Control Document Requirements
Fish Inspection Regulations, Sections 6.1(3)( c ), and (d)

Q3: When do I need to have these process control documents?

Process control documents must be obtained for the first imported shipment of canned and ready-to-eat fish products, and whenever there is a change to the process, product and/or foreign producer.

References: Regulatory Directive - Canadian Regulatory Requirements for Fish Import Licence Holders (Basic Importers), Section 4.7.3

Q4: What products are considered Ready-to-eat (RTE)?

Ready to eat (RTE) means any fish, other than canned fish and live shellfish, that does not require preparation except thawing or reheating before consumption.

References: Fish Inspection Regulations, Section 2
Glossary

Q5: I am importing cooked crab and shrimp. Do I need process control records for these types of products?

You must have process control records for cooked crab, since it is considered a ready to eat product. For the shrimp, you need to confirm with the producer whether the product is cooked or raw. If the shrimp is raw, you do not need a process control record. If it is cooked, it is considered a ready to eat product and you must have a process control record.

Complaints and Recalls

Q1: What must I do when I receive a complaint about my imported product?

If you receive a complaint about your imported product, you must investigate that you have imported the product in question, and if the complaint concerns a real or potential illness or injury, you must inform the CFIA within 24 hours.

References: Regulatory Directive - Canadian Regulatory Requirements for Fish Import Licence Holders (Basic Importers)
Regulatory Directive - Canadian Regulatory Requirements for Quality Management Program Import Licence Holders (QMPI Importers)
Regulatory Standard - QMPI Reference Standard

Product Requirements

Q1: What are the storage requirements for maintaining product quality?

You must make arrangements so that your product is stored at the appropriate temperature as stated on the label, and held in an area that is kept clean, with no potential for pest contamination. Product must be properly handled during storage and transportation.

Q2: What are the requirements to import product for further processing?

In order to import product for further processing, the importer must show that the imported product(s) will:

  1. be processed in a CFIA registered plant. The importer must either operate a CFIA registered plant, or identify the CFIA registered plant that will do the processing and the type of processing that will be carried out on the imported product.
  2. undergo a significant transformation such as changes to the product as a result of, but not limited to, filleting, trimming, boning, freezing, canning, smoking, salting, cooking, pickling or drying. Products that have been re-packaged without also undergoing any of the previous processes are not considered to have undergone significant transformation and do not meet the further processing criteria.

Q3: As part of the import licence requirement, I will be required to take affirmative actions that my product meets requirements? What are affirmative actions?

Affirmative actions are steps that you as the importer must take prior to importation to make sure the products you import meet all the Canadian requirements.

Affirmative actions may include but are not limited to:

  • selecting producers that are regulated by a foreign country competent authority and/or are identified on a list of eligible exporters of fish and seafood products;
  • selecting producers that use a HACCP-based system in the production of fish and seafood products;
  • establishing a Supplier Quality Assurance program;
  • selecting producers that are subject to third party auditing by competent authorities or internationally recognized accreditation or certification bodies;
  • establishing a system to perform on-site verification that producers are operating in a manner that will result in the production of products compliant with Canadian standards;
  • selecting suppliers who understand the Canadian regulatory requirements for fish products;
  • providing suppliers with a written description of all Canadian standards that apply to the products being sourced;
  • requiring that products be accompanied by export certificates that attest to product compliance with applicable Canadian standards and signed by the foreign country competent authority or an internationally recognized certifying body;
  • requiring that shipments be accompanied by attestations that the product was subject to inspection and found to comply with applicable Canadian standards;
  • requiring that shipments be accompanied by laboratory results that indicate that product was tested and found to be acceptable using a methodology equivalent to Health Canada's Compendium of Methods.

Labelling

Q1: I am selling my imported product to an ethnic market. What are the labelling requirements for product intended for the ethnic market?

The labelling requirements for products sold on the ethnic market are the same as the requirements for all product sold in Canada. For further information please see the Food and Drug Regulations, Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations and the CFIA's Labelling Requirements for Fish and Fish Products.

References: Food and Drug Regulations
Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations
CFIA Food Labelling for Industry

Q2: Country of Origin Declaration - Imported product exported from Canada to U.S. and Mexico?

Please see "Country of Origin Declaration - Imported product exported from Canada"

Product Testing / Results / Release

Q1: How long does it take to release my shipments?

The time taken to release shipments depend on whether inspection is necessary and the type of inspection.

  1. When no inspection is required, you can expect a notification from CFIA approximately 2 days after the CFIA receives the import notification documentation and form.
  2. When a product inspection is required, the release time will depend on whether a lab inspection is completed or not.
    1. for non-lab inspections where the lot is acceptable, importers may be notified that the product can be released approximately 12 days after product was sampled,
    2. for lab inspections where the lot is acceptable, importers may be notified that the product can be released approximately 20 days after the product was sampled.

References: Fish Products Inspection Manual, Chapter 3, subject 1

Q2: If my product fails, can I use it for personal consumption?

No. The product is not available for personal use or for human consumption. It must be destroyed or removed from Canada.

References: Regulatory Directive - Canadian Regulatory Requirements for Fish Import Licence Holders (Basic Importers)

Q3: Will CFIA conduct testing on request?

No. The CFIA does not test product on request. Importers can have their product tested at Standards Council of Canada (SCC) accredited laboratories.

Q4: What is the Mandatory Inspection List (MIL)?

The MIL, which is maintained by the CFIA, is a list of imported fish products which have failed inspection. Subsequent imports from the same producer that matches the MIL criteria are required to undergo mandatory testing for the specific test/analysis indicated on the MIL. The product will be taken of the MIL when there are four consecutive passes. (1 pass for labels).

Q5: What is the Enhanced Inspection List (EIL)?

The Enhanced Inspection List (EIL) is a list maintained by the CFIA to identify fish products the CFIA has information on as being potentially unsafe or unwholesome. For products that are listed on the EIL, importers must provide proof of evidence that the product meets the specific identified analysis. The product will remain on the EIL, until such time that CFIA has evidence that the specific product concern has been corrected.

Q6: I have a Fish Import Licence (Basic Importer). What are the options for laboratory testing of my product?

For products which are either on the Mandatory Inspection List or on the Enhanced Inspection List, importers with a Fish Import Licence, have the option to get the product tested at a private Standards Council of Canada accredited laboratory. Otherwise, you will have to wait for CFIA to conduct the testing.

If you decide to have the product tested at a private SCC accredited lab, please refer to the document on Product Inspection of Imported Fish for details on how to make the arrangements.

References:Product Inspection of Imported Fish, Sections 4.2.3, 4.2.4

Q7: What actions do I have to take if my product fails to meet Canadian regulatory requirements?

You must investigate why the product failed and you must take the appropriate corrective action, which may include strengthening your affirmative actions. A consistent pattern of importing product that fails to meet Canadian requirements may impact on your ability to maintain or renew your Import licence.

Index of the Fish Import Documents

Q1: How are the fish import documents organized?

The fish import documents are organized as follows:

  1. The Import policy outlines the intent and objectives of the Fish Inspection Act and Regulations and the approach by CFIA to enforce the applicable regulations.
  2. The Canadian regulatory requirements for importers describe the regulatory responsibilities of the importers. There are two documents: one for Basic importers and one for QMPI importers.
  3. The Product Inspection of Imported Fish document describes the processes relating to the product inspection of the Fish Import Program.
  4. The Guide to Process Controls Technical Information document provides guidance to importers on the type of information that should be included in the process control documents.
  5. The QMPI Reference Standard defines the regulatory requirements for the documentation and application of a Quality Management program for QMPI importers.
  6. The Fish Import Program Regulatory Verification document describes the process that is implemented by CFIA to verify that licensed fish importers are complying with the requirements of the FIR.
  7. The Glossary provides a list of terms used in the above mentioned documents and their associated definitions.
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