Overview: importing meat products
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 meat products
- Meat products exempt from certain SFCR requirements
- Point of entry control of imported meat products
- Official Meat Inspection Certificate (OMIC)
- In transit meat products
- Tracking of imported meat products
- Acceptance of meat product shipments and release to importers
- Inspection of imported meat products
- Refusal of imported meat product shipments
- Standards of identity and grades for meat products
- Labelling requirements
- Organic meat products
- Export and Imports Permit Act
This document outlines requirements specific for importing meat products. 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.
Refer to the list of countries eligible to export meat products to Canada and the country specific conditions for the commercial importation of meat products.
The CFIA's Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) provides additional information for importation of meat products. AIRS information is updated frequently so prior to importing you should verify AIRS to ensure that the import requirements have not changed.
The CFIA regulates imported meat products derived from food animals to verify that the imported meat products have been manufactured, prepared, stored, packaged and labelled in a manner and under conditions providing at least the same level of protection as meat products produced in Canada. The main considerations are consumer protection and prevention of introduction of a serious animal disease.
A meat product means the carcass of a food animal, the blood of a food animal or a product or by-product of its carcass, and any other food that contains the blood of a food animal or a product or by-product of its carcass. It does not include:
- gelatin, bone meal, collagen casing, hydrolyzed animal protein, monoglycerides, diglycerides or fatty acids; or
- any food that contains a meat product in an insignificant quantity, having regard to the nature of the food and of the meat product
Restrictions may be placed on the type of meat product which can be permitted entry into Canada from any given country, depending on the status of that country with regard to serious animal diseases. The legal basis for animal health related restrictions on importation of meat products can be found in the Health of Animals Act and Regulations (part IV).
In the case of those countries which are not considered free from serious animal disease (except Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or BSE), imports are generally limited to the following:
- commercially sterile, cooked, canned meat products that are shelf stable (canned includes all types of hermetically sealed containers, for example, retortable pouches and glass jars)
- edible tallow and oleo stearine
- pasteurized, canned, cured, boneless meat products
- frozen boneless beef cooked in tubes from specified establishments in certain countries; and
- dried soup-mix products, bouillon cubes, meat extract.
Additional animal health attestations are required to be incorporated in the Official Meat Inspection Certificate (OMIC) from certain countries and for certain types of meat products.
Depending on the species of food animals from which the meat products are derived, the CFIA considers the following animal diseases to be of concern when importing meat products to Canada:
- Avian species:
- Newcastle Disease (ND)
- Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)
- Equine species:
- No diseases of concern
- Porcine species:
- Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)
- Swine Vesicular Diseasea
- African Swine Fever
- Classical Swine Fever (Hog Cholera)
- Rabbit haemorrhagic disease
- Ruminant species (bovine, ovine, caprine, cervid):
- Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)
- Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)
Meat products from countries which are not free of animal diseases of concern to Canada may be imported under permit issued by the CFIA following an acceptable risk assessment. The import permit must be issued prior to the product arriving in Canada. More information on the animal health requirement and policy can be found in the Terrestrial animal products and by-products: Import policy framework.
Specific requirements for imported meat products
Edible meat products may be imported into Canada by a licence holder only if:
- the country where the meat product was manufactured, prepared, stored, packaged or labelled has an inspection system, in relation to meat products, that is recognized by the CFIA as providing at least the same level of protection as that of Canada
- the country from where the meat product is imported has an inspection system for meat products that is recognized by the CFIA as providing at least the same level of protection as that of Canada
- the establishment where the food animal from which the meat product is derived was slaughtered, and any establishment where the meat product was manufactured, processed, treated, preserved, handled, tested, graded, coded, stored, packaged or labelled, has a system for the mentioned activities that is recognized by the CFIA as providing at least the same level of protection as that of Canada, and
- the importer provides the CFIA with an Official Meat Inspection Certificate (OMIC) issued by the foreign country that states that the meat product meets the requirements that are set out in applicable Canadian laws and regulations
- the meat product meets the prescribed standard for imported meat as described in Standards of identity and grades for meat products
For more information on foreign systems recognition, refer to Recognition of foreign systems.
Meat products exempt from certain SFCR requirements
There are two categories of meat products in Part 2, section 25 of the SFCR that are exempt from meeting certain meat-specific requirements. These two categories of meat products are:
- Meat products that are a Ready-to-Eat (RTE) mixture, and
- Broth, lard, leaf lard, tallow, or other rendered fat, suet, shortening, flavor
When these two categories of meat products meet the conditions in section 25 of the SFCR, they are exempt from the following meat specific requirements:
- a licence is not required to store and handle the meat product in its imported condition for inspection and the requirements in Part 4 do not apply when storing and handling these meat products for inspection.
- the work shift requirements in the SFCR do not need to be met
- the import and export conditions found in subdivision L of Part 6 do not need to be met
- the requirement for moving an edible meat product from an establishment, when the meat product is not labelled in accordance with the SFCR does not need to be met
For further details on the above exemption and other SFCR trade exemptions refer to Regulatory requirements: Trade.
RTE meat products or RTE mixtures that are imported must still be accompanied by an official meat inspection certificate and is subject to the Policy on listeria monocytogenes in Ready-to-Eat foods
Point of entry control of imported meat products
Importers and/or import brokers are required to present all certificates and relevant documents to the National Import Service Centre (NISC), to verify that the shipment is meeting the requirements, before the shipment is allowed to enter Canada. The NISC also verifies validity of shipping marks to assure that the same shipping mark was not used within the preceding 12 months on any meat product imported from the same country. Shipping marks are unique numbers, or combinations of letters and numbers that positively identify each and every shipping container within the shipment with the corresponding OMIC. The OMIC numbers may be used as shipping marks. Refer to Use of Shipping Marks for more detail.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will not allow any meat product to enter Canada unless the importer/broker presents them with a proof that the CFIA has reviewed the required documents, determined that the shipment is eligible to enter and that the CFIA is taking over the tracking of the shipment, for its own purposes, until the required inspections have taken place and the shipment may be released to the importer.
For procedures on presenting documents to the NISC consult the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's National Import Service Centre.
Official Meat Inspection Certificate (OMIC)
All shipments of meat products imported to Canada must be accompanied by a valid OMIC, issued by the competent authority of the exporting country. The certificates must be individually numbered, with specific reference to the country of origin and the numbers must not have been repeated within the preceding 12 months on any meat product imported from the same country. The certificate format, as well as the required attestations, are negotiated and established at the time of the system review. The OMIC is the main document required by the CFIA as a proof that the imported meat products comply with the applicable Canadian legislation. For this reason, attestations required by the Safe Food for Canadians Act and Regulations as well as the Health of Animals Act and Regulations must be present, specific to the meat products and the animal health status of the exporting country.
The OMIC specifies the country of origin of the meat products as well as the slaughter, processing and exporting establishments implicated in the production and export to Canada. In addition to the product information, the certificate must specify the exporter and the importer.
Details related to the format of the certificates and the procedures for use of the certificates can be found in Procedures for the Use of Official Meat Inspection Certificates (OMIC), Official Meat Inspection Certificate Form (for all countries other than United States) and Official Meat Inspection Certificate Forms from the United States
In transit meat products
In transit shipments of meat products are shipments originating in a foreign country and shipped through Canadian territory, under Canadian customs bond, to a foreign country. The SFCA and SFCR do not apply to in bond shipments of food sent or conveyed from one foreign country to another where the food has been manufactured or prepared outside of Canada and passes only in transit through Canada. A bonded food shipment means the shipment has not obtained customs release, moves through Canada under customs bond and the food is not released into the Canadian marketplace. These shipments are not considered to have been imported.
All in transit meat product shipments must comply fully with all applicable provisions of the Health of Animals Act and Regulations.
There are three possible categories of in transit shipments:
- Shipments originating in the United States and destined to another part of the United States
These shipments are considered low risk with respect to public and animal health, and consequently are being controlled solely by CBSA officials. These are the most numerous among the in transit shipments of meat products.
- Shipments originating in the United States, destined to a third country (offshore)
These shipments are considered low risk with respect to public and animal health, and consequently are being controlled solely by the CBSA.
- Shipments originating in a third country (offshore), destined to the United States
These shipments are considered potentially high risk, mainly from the animal health point of view and consequently are referred by the CBSA for CFIA clearance, before they are allowed to enter Canadian territory. The NISC clears these shipments and maintains records for verification purposes.
For more information on how in transit shipments are handled; refer to procedures for handling in bond shipments
Tracking of imported meat products
Data on all imported meat product shipments is entered manually into the Import Control and Tracking System (ICTS) for shipments from all countries except Australia and New Zealand where it is electronically transferred. The ICTS is a national, automated computerized system that allows the CFIA to capture data on all imported meat product shipments, verify validity of the certificate number and the shipping marks, verify eligibility of the exporting country, slaughter, processing and exporting establishments and the label registration number, for export to Canada.
The ICTS generates an Import Inspection Report (IIR) and an invoice (for collection of CFIA fees associated with clearance of imported meat shipments) for each shipment. The report is the record of the import transaction for tracking purposes and provides the importer with the inspection assigned to the shipment.
Acceptance of meat shipments and release to importers
The CFIA will notify the importer or their representative of the successful inspection. The inspected lots are released to the importer subject to the following:
Fully marked shipments have no restrictions with respect to the final use or the destination.
Un-stamped imported meat products may be shipped anywhere within Canada. Tamper-resistant seals are required when shipped to another registered establishment.
For details on requirements for shipping and receiving of un-stamped meat products in registered establishments consult the un-stamped, tamper-resistant sealed meat shipment procedures.
Inspection of imported meat products
All imported shipments of meat products from countries other than the United States and all United States shipments designated for full organoleptic import inspection must be delivered to a an establishment where it will be stored and handled by a person who is licenced to store and handle imported meat products for inspection by a CFIA inspector.
When the shipments to be inspected arrive in the establishments the inspector must check for presence of seals, where necessary, on the transport containers and verify the numbers against those on the OMIC. In some instances, this function can be delegated to a responsible employee of the establishment when appropriate documented control is in place and has been accepted by the inspector.
All imported shipments to be inspected must be staged inside the establishment to allow the inspector to carry out cursory, overall inspection of the shipment. All shipping containers are examined for signs of damage and possible refrigeration failure during transport.
Initial shipments from eligible foreign establishments
- A minimum of the first 10 consecutive shipments from the foreign establishment, newly authorized for export to Canada, are subjected to full organoleptic inspections in a Canadian establishment licenced for that purpose. After 10 consecutive shipments have successfully passed full organoleptic import inspections, the establishment will be automatically placed into the reduced inspection mode.
Reduced inspection mode
- One in every 10 consecutive imported shipments (United States and offshore), chosen at random by the ICTS, is subjected to full organoleptic import inspection. From offshore countries, the other 9 shipments receive a cursory visual inspection at establishments where meat products will be stored and handled by a person who is licenced to store and handle imported meat products.
- For meat product from the United States, the other 9 shipments are not assigned an inspection by the ICTS. These are referred to as "skip lots" and may be released at the border by the CBSA to general commerce in Canada.
Intensified inspection mode
- Immediately after an imported shipment of meat product fails import inspection for major product deficiencies, the ICTS will automatically designate all shipments of related meat products from the same foreign establishment for full organoleptic import inspection. Ten consecutive lots, of at least 10 times the weight of the lot found in non-compliance will be inspected by the CFIA. This intensified inspection continues until 10 consecutive lots pass successfully. The CFIA may extend the intensified inspections beyond 10 shipments if the establishment history or the severity of the violation warrants continued inspection measures.
- Monitoring samples for laboratory examination may be drawn for chemical residue monitoring and/or Meat Microbiology Sampling. The shipments are not detained pending receipt of the laboratory results for monitoring sampling.
- Meat products imported into Canada are subject to testing and sampling to detect microbiological and chemical contamination. When a contaminant is detected above Canadian tolerance levels, the CFIA Food Import Export Division (FIED) applies a targeted sampling plan for future shipments of meat product(s) originating from the same establishment.
- The targeted sampling plan takes into consideration multiple factors according to the type of meat product(s) and type of foreign establishment(s) to be targeted. Typically, factors are: the type of meat product involved, level of food safety risk, microbiological or chemical residue non- compliance and, capability of digital systems for import.
- For microbiological and chemical residue non-compliances, fifteen consecutive shipments of at least 15 times the total weight of the meat product found in the original non- compliant shipment are subjected to targeted sampling by the CFIA.
- These products under the intensified plan must be held in an establishment where it will be stored and handled by a person who is licenced to store and handle imported meat products for inspection pending receipt of laboratory results.
- The intensified or directed sample testing is to be done at the importer's expense. The importer will be responsible for all arrangements and costs pertaining to shipping, handling, testing and reporting of the results to the CFIA.
- A laboratory ISO/IEC 17025 accredited by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) is used. For a list of accredited laboratories refer to Standards Council of Canada - List of Accredited Laboratories.
- The method of analysis selected for the chemical residue or pathogen of interest must be contained in the laboratory's scope of accreditation and the laboratory must be able to detect at or below the regulatory limit for the residue or pathogen.
Establishments that store and handle imported meat products for inspection
When imported meat requires an inspection it must be immediately delivered to an establishment where the meat product will be stored and handled by a person who holds a licence to store and handle imported meat products for inspection.
- Offshore shipments and shipments from the United States identified by the CFIA for full inspection must be presented in establishment where the meat product will be stored and handled by a person who holds a licence to store and handle imported meat products for inspection.
- All shipments of frozen cooked tubed boneless beef from South American countries not free of FMD must be presented for inspection in establishments located in close proximity to Canadian International sea ports.
Refusal of imported meat shipments
Section 32 of the SFCA provides the legal basis for dealing with shipments of meat products that are or have been imported into Canada in contravention of the Canadian legislation. An inspector may seize and detain the shipments and/or order them out of Canada at the time of the clearance, at the import inspection or any time after the shipments were released to the importer. The inspector is not required to seize and detain the shipments, before the shipments are ordered out of Canada.
The notice to remove these shipments from Canada must be either delivered personally or sent by registered mail to the owner, importer or person who will have 90 days to comply with the order. When shipments of meat products are ordered out of Canada, the importer must provide notification of a place and the time of the removal acceptable to the CFIA. Refused shipments that failed to be removed within the prescribed time shall be destroyed under CFIA supervision, at the expense of the owner, importer or person to whom the notice was delivered or sent.
Standards of identity and grades for meat products
There are grades and standards referred to in the regulations for meat products. These standards of identity and grades have been combined into a collection of Documents incorporated by reference – Safe Food for Canadians Regulations. Imported meat products must meet the requirements set in the following:
- Grade Requirements for Imported Meat Products
- Canadian Standards of Identity Volume 7, Meat Products
- Canadian grade compendium Volume 1, Ovine Carcasses and Poultry Carcasses
- Grade Names for Imported Food (refer to item 53 in this table for information relevant to meat products)
- Grade Designations for Imported Food (refer to items 3-6 in this table for information relevant to meat products)
Refer to Food-specific requirements and guidance – Meat products and food animals to view various guidance documents including:
Preventive controls for food – Meat which provide information on preventive control practices to mitigate food safety risks associated with the preparation of meat products.
Imported meat products 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 Meat and Poultry Products outline the labelling requirements specific for meat products.
Organic meat products
Imported organic meat products 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. Imported certified organic products with 95 per cent or more organic ingredients may display the Canada organic logo on the labels. 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.
Export and Imports Permit Act
Beef and veal, chicken and chicken products, pork, and turkey and turkey products are agricultural commodities that are subject to controls under Canada's Export and Imports Permit Act (EIPA). Accordingly, an import permit is required for shipments of these meat products to enter Canada. Import permits for shipments of these meat products destined to the Canadian market are issued to allocation holders under Canada's tariff rate quota (TRQ), which is administered by Global Affairs Canada (GAC). Meaning that under the EIPA, a quota holder can import a specific quantity of these meat products at a lower rate of duty while imports not covered by a quota are subject to higher rates of duty. Refer to Controlled Products for more information on the importation of these meat products.
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