Guide to Importing Food Products Commercially
Section C - Importer Responsibilities

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In all cases, it is the responsibility of the importer to ensure that products meet all requirements of Canadian legislation (federal, provincial and municipal).

Registering an Import Business

The Government of Canada has introduced a more efficient numbering system for businesses. With this new system, one number, the business number (BN), has replaced the many numbers that were needed to deal with the federal government. All commercial importers must have a business number for any import/export account with Canada Border Services Agency.

The business number has 15 digits: nine numbers to identify the business, plus two letters and four numbers to identify the program and each account. The system includes major types of Canada Border Services Agency programs that many businesses may be registered for, including GST, payroll deductions, corporate income tax and import/export (identified by RM). For example, an import/export account will look like this 12345 6789 RM0002.

In order to obtain an import/export account, traders should obtain a copy of Form RC1, Request for a Business Number (BN), which is available from any Canada Border Services Agency office. The Canada Border Services Agency will issue an account free of charge, as soon as the form is completed and submitted.

For most shipments entering Canada, importers will have to show an import/export account on customs documents.

Books and Records

Health and Safety Records

In accordance with Good Importing Practices, importers should keep records of the distribution of their products, so that goods may be efficiently and effectively recalled from the market place when a food poses a health risk to the population or when a serious contravention of the regulations has occurred. Records of consumer complaints and action taken should also be maintained, and all records should be kept for two years.

Financial Records

Importers are required to keep books and records to substantiate what goods have been imported, the quantities, the prices paid, and the country of origin. Records must be kept in Canada, in paper or electronic format, for six years after the importation of goods. To keep records outside of Canada, written permission from Canada Revenue Agency is required.

Even if a customs broker carries out customs activities on behalf of the importer, the records should be kept on the importer's premises. The importer is responsible for all records on reporting, releasing, accounting for, and paying for goods, as well as later adjustments. For more details, see Canada Border Services Agency's Memorandum D17-21 Maintenance of Records and Books in Canada by Importers.

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