Key Issues and Recommendations

On January 21st, the new Safe Food for Canadian Regulations (SFCR) was released in the Gazette 1.  Industry and consumers have until April 21st, 2017 to comment on the proposed regulations. Once SFCR is published in Gazette 2, it will bring the Safe Food for Canadians Act into force.

 To read what SFCR is, and how you can provide feedback, click here.

COTA's SFCR Task Force has received feedback from our legal council earlier this week to confirm the areas of concern listed below. We call upon the industry to rally together to convey back to government the areas which will be detrimental to our sector should the Regulations move forth in its present state.
This is not a complete overhaul of the organic regulations and standards, however, the changes will still be numerous and potentially disruptive for organic operators and the industry. For the purpose of focusing on the most disruptive issues, this document will not discuss other minor areas that have been identified. The full list of COTA recommendations and a summary report will be shared once complete.
Top Key Issues:

  1. Section 338-339 Definition – various activities means manufacturing, processing, treating, handling, slaughtering, producing, storing, packaging, labelling and conveying. (diverses activités)
COTA recommendation:
The terms identified under “various activities” requires precise definition. In other words, by not specifically defining these terms, they must be interpreted as broadly as possible. The definitions should be included in the Regulations.
The inclusion of all forms of storing and conveying (transportation) of organic products is a major change from the current regulatory regime. If product is packaged / contained in storage, and no repacking or labelling occurs, certification is not necessary as there is minimal risk to product integrity. Conveyance (transportation) does not require separate certification but integrity is protected by protocols required by a certified handler.
We also recommend ‘handling’ definition must include importers, brokers and traders.
  1. Section 347(2) Necessary steps: The certification body must not cancel a certification unless the holder of the certification was notified in writing of the grounds for the cancellation and was provided with an opportunity to be heard in respect of the cancellation.
COTA recommendation:
We request that this section be replaced with a modified version of sections 359 and 360, which would give a party a right to have a decision made by a certification body, refusing certification, reviewed by the President of the CFIA. An independent tribunal could then review the decision. As an example, a tribunal similar to what was established pursuant to the Agricultural and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act. This would give all parties a template as to how the review process might be handled on a going forward basis. Given the emphasis on providing a comprehensive set of food-based regulations, it is reasonable to expect that a specialized tribunal will be created to assist with any disputes arising from the administration of the Regulations.
  1. Section 342(2) Certificate: The certification body must provide the applicant with a certificate that confirms the organic certification of the food commodity and that indicates whether CAN/CGSB 32.310 or CAN/CGSB 32.312 is applicable, the period of validity referred to in subsection (3) and, in the case of a multi-ingredient food commodity, the percentage of its contents that are organic products.
COTA recommendation:
The requirement to declare the exact organic content percentage of multi-ingredient products on the organic certificate is inconsistent with current practices in Canada and among our current and potential trading partners, specifically the  ‘95% or more organic ingredient’ category. This requirement is impractical for the certified operator, and could place Canadian operators at a competitive disadvantage with our trading partners. Currently, products need to be categorized in one of the two categories outlined in the Canadian organic standards – organic (95% or more) and 70-95% organic content.  
  1. Section 342(3) Period of Validity: The organic certification of a food commodity is valid for 12 months beginning on the day on which it is granted under subsection (1).
COTA recommendation:
The notion of an expiring certificate is not in keeping with the current mode of operation for the Canadian industry and our largest trading partners. We request Section 342(3) be revised as follows:
“The certification, once issued, shall remain valid, unless suspended or cancelled by the certification body. The certificate shall be updated by the certification body on an annual basis. To remain valid, the holder of the certification must apply annually to the certification body for continued certification.  The certification body may initiate suspension or cancelation where the application is not submitted within the specified timeframe.”
We further request Section 345 (3) be revised as follows:
“The certification has the same period of validity as stated in Section 342(3).”
  1. Section 350(1) Expressions: The expressions “organic” or “biologique” or “organique”, “organically grown” or “cultivé biologiquement”, “organically raised” or “élevé biologiquement” and “organically produced” or “produit biologiquement” and any similar expressions, including abbreviations of, symbols for and phonetic renderings of those expressions, may only be shown on the label or used in the advertisement of a food commodity that is to be sent or conveyed from one province to another if (a) the food commodity is an organic product; and (b) in the case of a multiingredient food commodity, at least 95% of its contents are organic products.
COTA recommendation:
Labelling of “Certified Organic” should be expressly permitted under the Regulations.  The previous Organic Products Regulation (OPR) did not permit usage of “Certified Organic”, which was not restricted for our trading partners including USDA and EU.
  1. Section 347 Cancellation/Revocation of Organic Certificate
The SFCR does not provide adequate protection for organic consumers from willful violations of this portion of the regulation and/or fraudulent activity.
COTA Recommendation:
Protecting the integrity of the organic claim is implicit in the regulatory process.  Protection is needed from willful violators and intentional fraud, whether from certified or non-certified operators.  To accomplish this, COTA recommends Section 347 should be rewritten as follows:
347 Cancellation/Revocation
  1. the certification body must cancel a certification if
  1. the holder of the certification fails to take corrective action within 30 days after the day on which the certification was suspended;
  2. the holder of the certification was not in compliance with section 15 of the Act at the time of the application made under section 341 or 344 or at any time during the period of validity of the certification; or
  3. while the certification is suspended,
    1. in the case of a certification that was granted under section 342, the holder of the certification
      1. sends or conveys from one province to another a food commodity that is labelled with an expression that is referred to in subsection 350(1) or (2),
      2. sends or conveys from one province to another a food commodity that has on it the product legend that is set out in Schedule 8 or a food commodity in connection with which that product legend is used,
      3. applies or attaches to a food commodity a label that bears an expression that is referred to in subsection 350(1) or (2) or uses such an expression in the advertisement of a food commodity, or
      4. applies the product legend that is set out in Schedule 8 to, or uses it in connection with, a food commodity, and
    2. in the case of a certification that was granted under section 345, the holder of the certification continues to conduct an activity that is identified in their certification.
  1. The certification body may revoke a certification if they have reason to believe the holder of the certification has willfully violated the Act or regulations in this part.
  • the holder of the revoked certification and/or persons responsibly connected to the holder of the revoked certification shall be prevented from making application for certification under Section 341 and/or Section 344 for a period of no less than five (5) years from the date of revocation
  1. Willful violations of the Act or regulations in this part shall be considered Offences and shall be subject to consideration under Section 39 of the Act.
Necessary steps
  1. The certification body must not cancel or revoke a certification unless the holder of the certification was notified in writing of the grounds for the cancellation/revocation and notifies the holder of their right to make a request, within 30 days after the day on which they receive the notice, to the President for a review of the decision.
  1. The President must, on request, review the decision referred to in section 347 (1) or 347 (2) and, if the President decides to confirm it, must provide a copy of his or her decision with reasons to the holder of the certification and the certification body. If the President does not confirm the decision, the certification body must reinstate the certification.
Written notice
  1. The certification body must notify the holder of the certification in writing of the cancellation/revocation and the date on which it takes effect.”

How to be involved?

  1. Get involved through COTA
If your company has concerns about SFCR or there are key elements you would like to raise with COTA’s SFCR Task Force, you can do so by contacting COTA’s Executive Director Tia Loftsgard.
Once the SFCR’s Task Force comments are released, COTA will consult its membership and get final feedback from members. Stay tuned for our communication due to be released mid-March.
  1. Attend COTA webinar
COTA will host a webinar and information session available to all organic industry at 4:00PM EST on Tuesday, March 7th. COTA will discuss in details of SFCR and how it will effect organic and food industry. Participants interested must register in advance via this link.
  1. Attend CFIA webinars and meetings
During the 90-day consultation period, the CFIA will host a series of webinars and information sessions across Canada. To view the calendar and register online, you may follow this link
  1. Provide feedback directly to government
COTA encourage all organic operators to provide written comments directly to the federal government using COTA’s assessment of the regulation. The full list of COTA recommendations and a summary report will be shared in the near future.
Additional links
Pre-publication of the proposed regulations in the Canada Gazette, Part I -
Learn more about how the SFCRs will affect your business via these videos:
Big thanks to the volunteers of the SFCR Task Force and their dedications!
  • Tia Loftsgard, COTA
  • Marie-Eve Levert, COTA
  • Byron Hamm, Pro-Cert
  • Roxanne Beavers, QAI
  • Vincent Strickland, Pfenning’s Organic
  • Tim Rundle, Pacific Organic Seafood Association
  • Stuart McMillan, IOIA
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Copyright © 2017 Canada Organic Trade Association, All rights reserved.

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