Overview: importing honey
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.
On this page
- General information
- Specific requirements for imported honey
- Standards of identity and grades for honey
- Labelling requirements
- Organic honey
This document outlines requirements specific to importing honey. 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 visit 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 honey 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.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulates honey imported into Canada to ensure it is safe, wholesome and graded according to established standards. The CFIA also verifies honey is labelled and packaged according to Canadian regulations and standards to avoid misleading consumers and facilitate orderly marketing.
Honey is the sweet, viscous liquid produced by bees from the nectar of a variety of plants as well as from secretions of sap-feeding insects. The bees collect the nectar and transform it by combining with specific substances of their own. The nectar is stored in cells in the combs and the bees work to evaporate the moisture until it is at 16-18 percent. Honey, by definition cannot include added ingredients such as colour or sugar and still be called honey.
Honey imported for honey bee use could have additional requirements from other Canadian regulations such as the Health of Animals Act and Regulations, where a zoosanitary certification or an import permit may be required. Information on these requirements can be found on the Animal Health Bee Products webpage.
Specific requirements for imported honey
- Due to a history of non-compliance, honey imported from certain countries, as indicated in AIRS, is subject to a directed inspection. The honey is only considered acceptable for sale or further use upon receipt of all satisfactory lab results showing the honey meets Canadian veterinary drug residue limits and is free of other adulterants such as foreign sugars.
- Health Canada has both Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) and recommended safe Working Residue Levels (WRLs) for a number of veterinary drugs approved for use in other species that may be detected in domestic or imported honey. WRLs do not represent approval of additional drugs for use in beekeeping and must not be interpreted as an encouragement of their use.
- The Working Residue Levels (WRLs) For Antimicrobial Residues in Honey provide guidance to honey producers on residue levels which are deemed not to pose undue risk to human health. These WRLs, in addition to Administrative Maximum Residue Limits (AMRLs) and Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) will now be used by CFIA to assess honey samples.
- Health Canada's website provides a table of Current Lowest AMRLs/MRLs in Meats and Recommended WRLs in Honey.
- For further information on WRLs refer to Questions and Answers - Working Residue Levels in Honey.
Standards of identity and grades for honey
There are grades and standards referred to in the regulations for honey. These standards of identity and grades have been combined into a collection of Documents incorporated by reference – Safe Food for Canadians Regulations. Imported honey must meet the requirements set in the following:
- Canadian Standards of Identity Volume 5, Honey
- Canadian Grade Compendium Volume 6, Honey
- Grade Names for Imported Food (refer to item 1 in this table for information relevant to honey)
Imported honey 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 honey products outline the labelling requirements specific for honey.
Imported organic honey 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 Organic products.
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