Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): CFIA information for industry
Last updated: 2020-03-31, 00:30 (EDT)
Questions / Concerns?
COVID-19 is the CFIA's current priority. Please check this page first to get the latest information.
If you have a question not answered on our website, send us your question by email.
On this page
- Coronavirus disease questions answered
- CFIA offices moving to appointment only
- The CFIA is prioritizing critical activities during COVID-19 pandemic
- Current measures during COVID-19 for industry regulated by the CFIA
- CFIA update on inspection services during COVID-19 pandemic
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is working diligently to address the challenges and concerns raised by industry and consumers regarding COVID-19. The CFIA will continue to deliver critical services that serve to preserve the integrity of Canada's food safety system while safeguarding its animal and plant resource base. Appropriate oversight of domestic production and imported food products are essential to meeting that objective while also supporting trade and the supply chain, including through the certification of exports. The CFIA is committed to protecting the health and safety of its employees while maintaining critical inspection services.
The CFIA will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and will adjust activities to take into account the evolving situation. The CFIA will continue to collaborate and communicate regularly with regulated parties, federal, provincial and territorial colleagues and stakeholders.
Coronavirus disease questions answered
Food industry guidance about business activities
Food establishments should continue to follow guidance and protocols set out by local public health officials as instructions may vary depending on the spread of COVID-19 in certain areas and provinces and the products they produce.
Maintain social distancing in all food, plant, and animal production and processing businesses where employees typically work within close distances
Social distancing of no less than 2 metres is one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of illness during the COVID-19 outbreak. In all food, plant, and animal production/processing businesses, efforts should be made to identify and implement operational changes that increase employee separation.
Social distancing to the full 2 metres may not always be possible in some food, plant, and animal businesses. The risk of an employee transmitting COVID-19 to another is dependent namely on the distance between employees, the duration of the exposure, and the effectiveness of employee hygiene practices and sanitation. When it's impractical for employees in these settings to maintain social distancing, effective hygiene practices are to be maintained to reduce the chance of spreading the virus.
All food, plant, and animal production/processing businesses should consider:
- assessing the workplace for areas where people have frequent contact with each other and share spaces and objects, and increasing the frequency of cleaning in these areas
- finding ways that employees can practice social distancing, such as increasing distance between people in line-ups and workstations
Consult the risk-informed decision-making guidelines for workplaces and businesses to learn how to protect employees and customers in the workplace and get the latest facts about COVID-19.
Food safety in food processing plants in the event a food worker has become infected or tested positive for COVID-19
Employers should develop policies to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. These should be clearly communicated to employees and employees must confirm that they have understood.
Facilities should enhance their cleaning and sanitation efforts to control any risks that might be associated with workers who are ill, regardless of the type of virus or bacteria. This is in addition to regular cleaning and sanitation under the business' preventive control plan (PCP). For example, operators are required to maintain clean and sanitized facilities and food contact surfaces. Additional guidance should be sought from local public health authorities.
In the event that an employee develops COVID-19 symptoms, establishments are required to follow public health measures put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Public health authorities have communicated the following directives:
- employees who have COVID-19 symptoms must advise their manager immediately, contact their local public health authority or medical practitioner and follow their advice, immediately be isolated from others and sent home without using public transit, if possible
- employees who are at home and who may have COVID-19 are to follow the advice of their local public health authority regarding self-isolation to reduce the spread of COVID-19
The CFIA does not anticipate any food product recalls or withdrawals from the market due to COVID-19 contamination. Currently, there have been no reported cases of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19.
Ensuring CFIA inspectors' safety in establishments not having adequate and consistent approach to managing the spread of COVID-19
There is no restriction on when an employee can invoke their right to refuse work (CLC Part II Section 128(1)), other than the refusal cannot place someone else in danger (CLC Part II Section 128(2)).
If an employee has reasonable cause to believe that there is danger, then they have the right to refuse. The code does not define reasonable.
Danger means any hazard, condition or activity that could reasonably be expected to be an imminent or serious threat to the life or health of a person exposed to it before the hazard or condition can be corrected or the activity altered.
There are no standard answers, each situation must be evaluated on its own merits.
CFIA services in case of reduction in inspection staff due to COVID-19
The CFIA understands the concerns of industry and consumers with respect to COVID-19 and the unprecedented impact around the globe on businesses, economies and people. The CFIA will continue to deliver critical services that serve to preserve the integrity of Canada's Food Safety System while safeguarding its animal and plant resource base. Appropriate oversight of domestic production and imported food products are essential to meeting that objective while also supporting trade and the supply chain, including through the certification of exports.
The CFIA is committed to maintaining critical inspection services and has a plan in place to address potential inspector absenteeism. In an effort to balance employee safety with service delivery, the CFIA will continue to monitor developments and support the efforts of the Canadian, U.S. and global authorities in their responses by making adjustments to its service delivery plans. This evolving situation highlights the importance of continued collaboration and communication between the CFIA and industry, partners and stakeholders.
CFIA inspector presence for meat processing establishments during COVID-19
The CFIA is committed to safeguarding the health and safety of its employees while continuing to deliver timely and critical services. The CFIA is working diligently to meet the challenges associated with COVID-19 and is monitoring its service delivery capacity daily in order to prevent or minimize delays. CFIA will continue to work with meat processing establishment personnel to address any issues as they arise.
Food safety in food processing plants in the event of a CFIA inspector or veterinarian becoming infected with COVID-19
The CFIA takes this evolving situation seriously and has advised all employees that they have a duty to follow the guidance of health authorities to protect public health. The CFIA has also asked employees to follow the health and safety protocols put in place by the establishments in which they work. CFIA employees (including inspectors) who are exhibiting any signs or symptoms of illness have been advised to contact their managers and stay home.
Facilities should enhance their cleaning and sanitation efforts to control any risks that might be associated with workers who are ill, regardless of the type of virus or bacteria. This is in addition to regular cleaning and sanitation under the business' preventive control plan (PCP). For example, facilities are required to maintain clean and sanitized facilities and food contact surfaces. Additional guidance should be sought from local public health authorities.
The CFIA commits to protecting the health and safety of its employees while maintaining critical activities and inspection services. The CFIA will continue to deliver services and perform activities that serve to preserve the integrity of Canada's food safety system while safeguarding its animal and plant resource base.
Precautionary measure for livestock producers
Livestock producers should follow normal biosecurity measures as always, particularly if they have COVID-19 symptoms or are self-isolating due to contact with a COVID-19 case. In addition to avoiding contact with animals, this includes excluding visitors or workers who:
- have travelled abroad in the last 14 days
- are ill, especially with symptoms of COVID-19
- have been in contact with a confirmed or suspected case in the last 14 days.
For more information on farm disease prevention, producers are encouraged to consult the:
- National Biosecurity Standards and Biosecurity Principles
- National Farm-Level Biosecurity Planning Guide.
These measures are recommended as a precaution, and are basic practices to prevent transmission of diseases between humans and animals. If you have concerns, seek professional advice from your veterinarian or a public health professional who can help to answer your questions.
CFIA collaboration with industry on service levels
The CFIA is committed to continuing critical inspection services to maintain food safety and safeguard the health of Canada's plants and animals. The CFIA will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and will adjust activities to take into account the evolving situation. The CFIA will continue to collaborate and communicate regularly with partners, industry and Canadians.
Export and import inspection services
As the Canadian government implements measures on social distancing in an effort to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus, it has made clear it remains committed to ensuring the flow of essential goods and services to its citizens.
The Agency is not requiring or issuing any additional certifications on goods legally circulating within the domestic or international market. There is no evidence that food is a source or a transmission source of COVID-19.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has strong measures in place to ensure verify that Canada's food supply is safe. All food imported into and exported from Canada must be safe for human consumption as required by the Safe Food for Canadians Act and Regulations. This includes requirements for licensing, preventative control plan (PCP) and traceability. When the CFIA issues a food export certificate, we are certifying that the food meets all the regulatory and export requirements.
The CFIA has provided precautionary recommendations that all food industry personnel can use to enhance their existing good hygiene practices during food handling and preparation, such as washing hands, and where applicable, cooking meat thoroughly and avoiding potential cross-contamination between cooked and uncooked foods. In addition, the CFIA has recommended all Canadian food facilities to enhance sanitation of their facilities, which is in addition to regular cleaning and sanitation under the preventive control plan (PCP).
Accordingly, CFIA is confident that these measures provide assurances that food and food products imported into and exported from Canada meet the export requirements of Canada and the importing country.
Crossing the border
The Government of Canada has determined the continuation of trade is essential.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has identified the services required for import and export of commercial goods, as a high priority in its business continuity plan.
Truck shipments at Canadian/American border during COVID-19: The Government of Canada has confirmed that any truck drivers carrying food and/or animals for commercial purposes into Canada from the United States are exempt from the 14-day self-isolation period for COVID-19. CFIA employees at a Canadian/American land border crossing will proceed as normal when inspecting a shipment carrying food and/or livestock.
For Canadian shipments entering the US: Canadian truck drivers carrying commercial shipments of food and/or animals into the US are also exempt from the 14-day self-isolation period. However, if the driver has been in one of the countries identified in the US presidential order, they will not be exempt from the isolation period.
Transporters should be aware that access to personal services and amenities may be limited in both the USA and Canada at this time.
Specific information regarding transport of horses
For shipments entering Canada carrying horses, e-certificates with digital USDA endorsement are acceptable.
This applies to Canadian horses returning from the US and horses entering Canada from the US. This does not apply to horses from other countries.
Some export certificates may be presented on a mobile device in place of hard copy certificates. CFIA port of entry veterinarians and CBSA officers are to use their discretion whether to accept.
This is a temporary suspension of the requirement for a hard copy because of the current exceptional circumstances. Any CFIA communications with stakeholders regulated parties and drivers should continue to request hard copy certificates. All existing requirements mentioned in AIRS still apply.
This page will be updated regularly with the latest information for industry including transporters of food and/or livestock.
CFIA offices moving to appointment only
Throughout the COVID-19 situation, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will continue to support Canadians and Canadian businesses to deliver critical services that serve to preserve the integrity of Canada's food safety system while safeguarding its animal and plant resource base.
To support CFIA's delivery of critical services during the COVID-19 pandemic, its offices will be open by appointment only. Please contact your local CFIA office, before visiting, to book an appointment.
Provide as much advance notice as possible when booking an appointment, or requesting a CFIA service. Processing times may be longer than usual, and may fluctuate. Appointment requests may be prioritized, depending on demand.
The CFIA is committed to protecting the health and safety of its employees while maintaining critical services. When you arrive for your appointment, a CFIA staff member will be present to meet you. Our staff are working to reduce risk by following basic hygiene processes, such as frequent hand-washing, abstaining from hand-shaking, as well as following physical distancing practices.
Please support our capacity to offer services, by following these same practices, and the guidelines of public health authorities. If you are feeling unwell, contact us to reschedule your appointment.
The CFIA is monitoring the COVID-19 situation and will continue to adjust its activities to take into account the evolving situation. The agency will continue to collaborate and communicate regularly with regulated parties, federal, provincial and territorial colleagues and stakeholders.Get the latest information on CFIA's response to COVID-19. If you have a question not answered on our website, send us your question by email.
The CFIA is prioritizing critical activities during COVID-19 pandemic
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is taking action to preserve the integrity of Canada's food safety system, while safeguarding its animal and plant resource base.
The CFIA has activated its business continuity plan, which introduces a temporary suspension of low-risk activities that do not immediately impact the production of safe food for Canadians in order to prioritize critically important services during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The food safety system remains strong.
This approach to temporarily suspend low-risk activities allows the CFIA to continue to safeguard the health and safety of its staff while refocusing efforts in areas of higher risk and towards activities that are critical to the safety of food, as well as animal and plant health.
The Government of Canada is working hard with partners at all levels to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic as it develops. This includes continuing to perform the critical activities and to deliver needed services to preserve the integrity of Canada's food safety system.
CFIA is prioritizing:
- Food safety investigations and recalls
- Animal disease investigations
- Inspection services
- Export certification
- Import inspection services
- Emergency management
- Laboratory diagnostics in support of the above
CFIA is temporarily suspending:
- Food inspections and investigations not related to food safety
- Low risk surveillance or sampling activities (food, plant and animal)
- Inspections of preventive control plans and plant and animal inspections in areas of low risk
- Low risk labelling and domestic facility inspections
- Low risk permissions
While the CFIA's business continuity plan is in place, industry must continue to comply with requirements pertaining to food, animal and plant health and remains responsible for the safety and quality of the food that it produces, imports and exports. The CFIA is working with industry and is continuing its critical activities so that Canadians continue to have access to safe food during this difficult time.
In an effort to protect the health and safety of its employees and their families and while providing critical services, the CFIA continues to monitor developments regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and to support the efforts of the Canadian and global authorities in their responses by making adjustments to its service delivery plans.
The CFIA understands the concerns of industry and consumers with respect to COVID-19 and the unprecedented impact around the globe on businesses, economies and people and is committed to communicating its ongoing activities.
Current measures during COVID-19 for industry regulated by the CFIA
In recent days, the CFIA has received many requests from industry to have its inspectors and officials sign various documents, such as Visitor Request Forms and COVID-19 Screening Forms, before entering its facilities. Inspectors have also received requests from industry to follow specific directives before entering a place for inspection. As you are aware, CFIA officials are not present at establishments as "visitors" but as inspectors under CFIA legislation that allows them to enter any place in which they have reasonable grounds to believe that an activity regulated by CFIA legislation is conducted, for the purpose of verifying compliance and/or preventing non-compliance.
To ensure that inspectors continue to meet the health and safety requirements stemming from the Public Health Agency of Canada's (PHAC) and Health Canada's guidelines regarding the management of the COVID-19 Pandemic, CFIA employees have been asked to conduct a self-assessment of their daily health status for potential symptoms of the virus prior to each shift. They have also been asked to follow COVID-19 protocols put in place by the establishments in which they work, such as the monitoring of temperature upon arrival on or at an establishment.
Please note that CFIA employees have been advised by the CFIA not to sign documents such as your company's COVID-19 Form as they are required to abide by the policies, procedures and terms of employment established by their employer, the CFIA. As a reminder, CFIA inspectors are not obligated to share personal information with regulated parties regarding their personal travels or health conditions. This is protected personal information under the federal Privacy Act.
The CFIA understands the concerns of industry with respect to COVID-19 and the exceptional circumstances that currently exist. The purpose of this Notice is to inform regulated parties of some of the measures that it has put in place regarding the COVID-19 situation. These measures are informed by the CFIA's obligations regarding the health and safety of its employees, which derive from federal legislation, that is, the Canada Labour Code, Part II, and the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. Regarding the COVID-19 situation, the CFIA is also taking into consideration the advice and recommendations of the Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada and Treasury Board.
The CFIA takes its obligations regarding the health and safety of its employees very seriously. As a result, it has advised its employees of the following based on the current advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada (please note, this advice to employees is subject to change and to being updated):
- If they have travelled outside of Canada, upon their return CFIA employees should self-isolate for 14 days
- Employees who have COVID-19 symptoms must advise their manager immediately, contact their local public health authority or medical practitioner and leave the workplace
- Employees who are at home and who may have COVID-19 are to follow the advice of their local public health authority regarding self-isolation
The CFIA expects regulated parties to take similar measures.
Due to the evolving nature of a pandemic, the information contained in this Notice is subject to change. Please check the CFIA's website regularly for updates to this Notice.
CFIA update on inspection services during COVID-19 pandemic
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is closely monitoring the developments related to COVID-19 and is prioritizing the health and safety of its employees. The CFIA will continue to make adjustments in the coming days to fulfill its mandate of safeguarding Canada's food, animals and plants.
Further, CFIA employees, including inspectors, who are exhibiting any signs or symptoms of illness have been advised to stay home and will be excluded from all work activities including establishment inspections. The CFIA takes this situation seriously and has advised all employees that they have a duty to follow the guidance of health authorities to protect public health. If a business becomes concerned that a CFIA inspector has reported for work and is sick, or exhibiting symptoms he or she is sick, the business should contact the inspector-in-charge.
In line with public health guidance, the CFIA has suspended all non-essential work travel outside of Canada and if employees have travelled outside of Canada they have been advised to stay home and self-isolate for at least 14 days.
The CFIA recognizes the importance of domestic production as well as imports and exports of food, plants and animals. The Agency is committed to maintaining critical inspection services and continues to further define plans and mitigation measures to address potentially increasing inspector absenteeism.
This situation highlights the importance of continued collaboration and communication between CFIA and industry. As this situation continues to evolve based on the latest information from public health authorities, the Agency asks for your continued patience, collaboration and flexibility.
The CFIA has strong measures in place to ensure the safety of Canada's food supply. There is currently no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of COVID-19. The Agency continues to monitor the current situation closely in collaboration with our federal, provincial, territorial and international partners. If the CFIA becomes aware of a potential food safety risk, appropriate actions will be taken to protect Canada's food supply.
Imports and exports of food to and from Canada are not currently affected. Should the situation change, the CFIA will keep industry updated and share information as it becomes available.
All Canadian federally licensed establishments adhere to rigorous, internationally accepted standards and food safety requirements including strong sanitation and hygiene requirements.
The World Health Organization has issued precautionary recommendations including advice on the need for all Canadians to follow good hygiene practices during food handling and preparation, such as washing hands, cooking meat thoroughly and avoiding potential cross-contamination between cooked and uncooked foods.
For the latest and most up-to-date information on COVID-19, visit canada.ca/coronavirus.
Plant and animal health
There is currently no evidence to suggest that this virus is circulating in animals in Canada. Imports and exports of plants and animals to and from Canada are not currently affected. As more information becomes known, the CFIA will take any necessary action to protect the safety of Canada's plants and animals.
As always, producers should follow normal biosecurity measures by continuing to consider the potential risks associated with various people entering their business premises and implement measures to manage these visits.
For more information on on-farm disease prevention, producers are encouraged to consult the National Biosecurity Standards and Biosecurity Principles and National Farm-Level Biosecurity Planning Guide.
Additional information is available from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) (questions and answers on COVID-19).
Report a problem or mistake on this page
- Date modified: