What the Safe Food for Canadians Act means for fishers

November 18, 2014

What is it?

In 2015 the Safe Food for Canadians Act (the SFCA) will come into force and new regulations will follow. The SFCA and regulations will create a single set of food regulations and establish minimum safety requirements for all food imported or prepared for interprovincial trade or export. It will consolidate and replace a number of existing food laws administered and enforced by the CFIA, including the Canada Agricultural Products Act, the Meat Inspection Act, food provisions of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and importantly, the Fish Inspection Act (the FIA) and the Fish Inspection Regulations (the FIR’s).

How the SFCA could affect fishers

With any consolidation of food laws, the impact on stakeholders is dependent on their place in the production chain and the nature of the product and market. The SFCA will have a greater regulatory impact on processors and brokers, but there will likely be changes to the compliance standards that will also impact fishers.

Many fishers are subject to one or more sections of the FIR’s which establish compliance requirements for vessels used for fishing or transporting fish (Schedule III) and for conveyances and equipment used for unloading, handling, holding and transporting fresh fish (Schedule V). The good news is that the government has indicated that certain commodity-specific requirements and processes will likely be maintained using the present approach and that it will publish new plain language compliance guides to accompany the new regulations. However, the government has suggested that the commodity-specific requirements could be re-written to streamline, consolidate and achieve specific outcomes.

What we know so far

At this point the good news is that the government has indicated that sectors currently under regulations which are already under CFIA oversight (ie. the FIA and FIR’s) will largely meet the proposed regulations, suggesting that the transition will be relatively straightforward and the changes minimal. However, it does look like change to some degree is coming. In its most recent overview the government provided some examples of specific requirements that are likely to be in the SFCA regulations:

  • Vessels – Provisions related to “onboard waste containment management” and “grandfathering” older vessels from certain current requirements;
  • UHHT – Specific requirements related to the holding and handling of fish during transportation and unloading;
  • Vessels/UHHT – Specific exemptions for fish, crustaceans undergoing minimal handling, and product not subject to processing and intended for delivery to a licence holder; and
  • Sport-caught fish – Issuance of certificates for sport-caught fish for export to the EU, even though the product is for personal use/consumption.

The federal government has indicated that a full draft of the SFCA regulations will be made available in January 2015 with a target date of June 2015 for final publication. Implementation will likely be phased in after that time. To what extent the upcoming changes will specifically affect fishers will only be known when the regulations are published this coming January, so stay tuned.

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