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Overview: importing fresh fruit or vegetables

Although the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) came into force on January 15, 2019, certain requirements may apply in 2020 and 2021 based on food commodity, type of activity and business size. For more information, refer to the SFCR timelines.

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Introduction

This document outlines requirements specific to importing Fresh Fruit or Vegetables (FFV). In order to ensure that you will also meet the general import requirements for importing food and the preparation of your preventive control plan, please refer to the Importing food: a step by step guide and A guide for preparing a preventive control plan – For importers.

The specific import requirements for importing FFV can be found in the Automated Import Reference System (AIRS). AIRS information is updated frequently so prior to importing you should verify AIRS to ensure that the import requirements have not changed.

General information

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulates fresh fruit and vegetables (FFV) imported into Canada. Certain imported fruits or vegetables could have additional requirements from other Canadian regulations such as Plant Protection Act and Regulations, where a phytosanitary certification or an import permit may be required.

In addition to a licence to import, importers of FFV must also hold membership with the Fruit and Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corporation (DRC). This does not apply to nuts, wild fruits and wild vegetables. Information regarding membership with the DRC can be found on the DRC website. There are some permitted exceptions to requiring a DRC membership:

Note that the above exceptions to the DRC membership requirement are not exceptions to the requirement to hold a license to import under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR).

Specific requirements for imported fresh fruit and vegetables

Fresh fruit or vegetables imported into Canada must meet Canadian requirements as set out in the SFCR as well as the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR). Some products are associated with elevated food safety risks and have specific import requirements to minimize potential hazards.

The importation of leafy greens from California is limited to those handled by a signatory handler of the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement.

The CFIA is currently working on the implementation of a similar requirement to limit the importation of leafy greens from Arizona to those handled by shippers that are certified members of the Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA). Additional communication on when this change will be implemented, including updates to the Automated Import Reference Service (AIRS), will be distributed prior to implementation.

The importation of fresh cultivated raspberries from Guatemala is prohibited between March 15 and August 14 of each year. Wild raspberries and wild blackberries from Guatemala are prohibited year round

The importation of Mexican cantaloupe is allowed if the growers/packers have been certified by the Mexican government under the Cantaloupe certification program and have maintained a valid certification

Ministerial exemptions

Under certain circumstances, regulatory requirements may be exempted and the import of non-compliant product may be permitted. The CFIA may exempt a product from the minimum grade (quality), labelling and/or packaging requirements, where we consider it necessary in order to prevent or alleviate a shortage of product in Canada.

Contact the Centre of Administration for Permissions to apply for a ministerial exemption and visit Ministerial Exemptions for more information on the types of ministerial exemptions permitted under the SFCR.

Import certification

Imported apples, onions and potatoes require an inspection certificate indicating minimum Canadian import requirements for quality, labelling, and packaging are met. The certificate is to be provided by the USDA, New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (apples) or by the CFIA.

Pesticide residues

The CFIA monitors both domestically grown and imported FFV for pesticide residues. Division 15 of the Food and Drug Regulations states that the pesticide residues found on fruits and vegetables should not exceed established maximum residue limits (MRL). These MRL's can be found in the online MRL database tool on the Health Canada website.

Sulphites

Sulphites are sulphur-based substances that may be used by suppliers of fresh fruit and vegetables as preservatives to prevent product spoilage and discoloration during storage and transport. The presence of sulphites in fresh fruit and vegetables may present a serious or life threatening health risk for sensitive individuals.

Imported fresh fruit or vegetables intended to be consumed raw and that are treated with sulphites are not permitted for sale in Canada. Only grapes are exempt from this restriction.

Resources

Refer to the Food-specific requirements and guidance – Fresh fruits or vegetables to view various guidance documents including:

Preventive controls for food – Fresh fruits or vegetables provide information on select preventive control practices to mitigate food safety risks associated with the preparation of fresh fruits or vegetables.

Regulatory requirements: Fresh fruits or vegetables explain the SFCR requirements related to fresh fruit or vegetables, including those related to importing.

Standards of identity and grades for fresh fruit and vegetables

There are grades referred to in the Documents incorporated by reference – Safe Food for Canadians Regulations for specific fruits and vegetables. When imported, fruits or vegetables must meet the grades set in:

Labelling requirements

Imported fresh fruit or vegetables must also meet the labelling and packing requirements outlined in the SFCR. The Industry Labelling Tool is a food labelling reference for all industry that outlines the requirement for food labelling and advertising.

Labelling Requirements for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables outline the labelling requirements specific for fresh fruit or vegetables.

Organic fresh fruit or vegetables

Imported organic FFV may be certified to the Canadian Organic Standard by a CFIA accredited Certification Body or be certified in accordance with an equivalency arrangement established between Canada and the exporting country. Where an equivalency arrangement is in place, organic products may be certified by a certification body accredited by that country and recognized by Canada. All relevant Canadian legislation would also continue to apply for the imported product.

Any person who imports a product or markets it in Canada as an organic product must be able to demonstrate, at all times, that the product meets one of the requirements set out above and must retain the documents attesting that the product is organic.

For further information about organic products refer to the Organic Products web page.

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