Canadian federal, provincial and municipal governments all have laws that govern the food industry and food processors. You need to be aware of these laws, as well as any changes that occur in them over time. If you are planning to export your product, you will also need to know the laws of your foreign market.

In this section you will learn:

  • federal food safety regulations
  • other federal regulations
  • import requirements
  • provincial food safety regulations
  • other provincial regulations
  • municipal regulations
  • United States regulations

Federal food safety regulations

There are several federal laws and regulations related to food safety that you will need to know and follow. They are governed by Health Canada, who:

  • establishes policies and standards governing the safety and nutritional quality of all food sold in Canada
  • carries out food-borne disease surveillance for early detection and warning

While all manufacturers in Canada must sell food that is fit for human consumption, according to the Food and Drugs Act the government body that inspects and approves your production process depends on where you plan to sell your product.

The information in this section is a guide to the regulations that apply to the food processing industry. All the regulations are not listed here. It is your responsibility to contact the regulatory agencies that apply to your business to get all the details.

There are other regulations, not related to food safety which you may need to comply with for example, business, contract, environmental, labour, trade or criminal law.

Get as much information as possible about all the laws that apply to you before you:

  • build a new plant
  • buy an existing plant
  • start operations
  • expand or modify your operation
  • introduce new products
  • expand into new markets

Regulatory agencies can inspect your business to make sure you are operating within the law. These inspections will occur frequently depending on the risk of your product. For example, meat is a high-risk product. All animals are inspected before they are slaughtered. The inspector will also be there during the slaughter and will inspect the carcasses afterwards. If your facility produces lower-risk products, inspectors might visit less often. If your product is going to be exported, your trading partners may want verification that your facility or processes meet their standards.

If an inspector decides your product or the premises are not operating within the regulations, you must take corrective action.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for enforcement and administration of the Food and Drugs Act to protect consumers from any food that is not fit for consumption, including those that are sold exclusively within provinces. Federal regulations cover food products which are sold inter-provincially and internationally (for example, products for out-of-province sales).

The CFIA also has the legislative power to enforce the fraud and labelling provisions of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, the Canada Agriculture Products Act and associated regulations to all food processors in Canada, including Ontario-licensed plants. When problems occur, the CFIA also communicates possible food safety risks to Canadians.

In 2012, the Government of Canada passed the Safe Food for Canadians Act. The Act:

  • makes food as safe as possible for Canadian families
  • protects consumers by targeting unsafe practices
  • implements tougher penalties for activities that put health and safety at risk
  • provides better control over imports
  • institutes a more consistent inspection regime across all food commodities sold interprovincially and internationally
  • strengthens food traceability

The CFIA is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the following acts and regulations:

Note: Check the CFIA website for updates on the Safe Food for Canadians Act.

On the CFIA website, you will find information about all the programs and services they offer, all the acts and regulations they enforce and a directory of staff and offices.

You’ll also find newsletters, fact sheets, guidelines, manuals and databases covering a wide range of topics, such as allergens, labelling, food safety, codes of practice and generic HACCP plans.

Be sure to check out the CFIA’s Food labelling for industry webpage.

Contact the CFIA

Head office
1400 Merivale Road
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0Y9
Tel: 1-800-442-2342

Ontario area
174 Stone Road West
Guelph, Ontario
N1G 4S9
Tel: 226-217-8555

Other federal regulations

Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario was developed to help Ontario entrepreneurs gain access to government business information. On their site you will find the Business Regulations Guide with information related to business regulations.

Health Canada establishes policies and standards governing the safety and nutritional quality of all food sold in Canada. They carry out food-borne disease surveillance for early detection and warning.

The Regulatory Roadmap for Health Products and Food is a strategy to produce a sustainable regulatory future that meets the objectives of protecting the Canadian public from the sale and advertising of unsafe food and health products, and supporting the safest consumption of food and use of health products.

Measurement Canada is responsible for ensuring the integrity and accuracy of measurement in the Canadian marketplace. They:

  • develop and administer the laws and requirements governing measurement
  • evaluate, approve and certify measuring devices
  • investigate complaints of suspected inaccurate measurement

Measurement Canada enforces two laws:

  • Electricity and Gas Inspection Act and Regulations
  • Weights and Measures Act and Regulations:
    • All measuring devices, such as scales and meters, must be inspected by an authorized service provider before you use them for trade (see Measurement Canada's website) for a list of authorized service providers.
    • All goods and services traded based on measure must also be inspected by an authorized service provider to ensure they are accurately measured.
    • Measuring devices in eight sectors are required to be inspected at set intervals. The sectors related to food manufacturing include dairy, retail food, fishing and grain and field crops. The mandatory inspection frequencies by sector and device type can be found on the Government of Canada’s Mandatory examination frequencies by sector and device type webpage.

Import requirements

You can import products into Canada from other countries for processing. Federal and provincial legislation may have certain conditions you need to meet to do this. For example, some products can only be imported under a federal import permit which is issued by International Trade Canada.

Note: Changes to the Safe Food for Canadians Act will affect import requirements. Check the CFIA website for more information.

Certain products are subject to tariff rate quotas meaning there may be a limit to how much you can bring in. You can find more information on the Global Affairs Canada website.

Some rules also apply to importing equipment. To learn more about import requirements, contact:

Provincial food safety regulations

As a food processor, you must familiarize yourself with several provincial statutes and regulations administered and enforced across ministries.

OMAFRA administers and enforces acts and regulations that apply to food processors that produce and distribute agri-food products for sale only within Ontario. These products include meat, dairy, eggs and foods of plant origin (fruit and vegetables, sprouts, culinary herbs, nuts, edible fungi, maple and honey products).

All other products produced and distributed for sale only within Ontario are regulated under the Food Premises Regulation and enforcement is carried out by the local Public Health Unit.

Note: If you are a processor of dairy products or eggs, you must be licensed under provincial legislation. Abattoir operators who are not federally registered also need a license.

Check out OMAFRA’s website on programs and services offered, and acts and regulations enforced or contact the Food Inspection Branch:

Food Inspection Branch
1 Stone Road West, 5th Floor NW
Guelph, Ontario
N1G 4Y2
Tel: 519-826-4230
Toll-free: 1-877-424-1300

The following regulations for the food industry should be considered:

The Ontario Ministry of Health is responsible for the Health Protection and Promotion Act. This Act gives the 36 local boards of health across Ontario the authority to carry out inspections in restaurants and food premises. The local boards of health also investigate and control food-borne illness outbreaks.

Many different Regulations fall under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, the one that applies to food is the Food Premises Regulation 493/17. This Regulation establishes minimum standards that must be followed in any place in Ontario where food is manufactured, processed, prepared, stored, handled, displayed, distributed, transported, sold or offered for sale, but does not include a private residence.

Food handler training

Most public health units in Ontario offer food handler training programs that focus on helping workers gain the knowledge for how and why food safety processes are necessary, as well as the steps they must take to protect their own health and the consumer’s. Food handler participants learn about public health legislation, the role of the public health inspector, foodborne illness, safe food handling methods and food premises sanitation. At the end of the training, food handlers will be prepared to successfully complete the examination for a Food Handler Certificate.

For your location, check the Ontario Ministry of Health’s information on Public Health Units.

For more information, contact:

Ministry of Health
Suite M1-57, Macdonald Block
900 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 1N3
Tel: 416-314-5518
Toll-free: 1-866-532-3161

Other provincial regulations

You can download Ontario laws from the e-Laws site or purchase government publications from Publications Ontario.

You can also get copies of the various acts through government information centres in Toronto and Ottawa, as well as several third-party outlets throughout Ontario.


The Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission (OFPMC) is a regulatory agency without a governing board, established under the authority of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act. The OFPMC administers the following two acts:

Milk is a supply managed commodity in Canada and the production and sale of milk are highly regulated, both federally and provincially. The Dairy Farmers of Ontario’s website is a useful resource about regulations governing the production and sale of milk in Ontario.

Other commodity marketing plans have been established under the Farm Products Marketing Act. These plans are administered by various producer marketing boards. The plans vary by commodity and each board has been granted different authorities. For example, if you are a processor of apples, asparagus, grapes, potatoes, tender fruit or vegetables, you need to be licensed under the Farm Products Marketing Act.

Please visit the marketing boards and agencies below for more information:

  • Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario (ARIO)
  • Agricorp
  • Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal/Board of Negotiation (AFRAAT/BON)
  • Business Risk Management Review Committee (BRMRC)
  • Grain Financial Protection Board (GFPB)
  • Livestock Financial Protection Board (LFPB)
  • Normal Farm Practices Protection Board (NFPPB)
  • Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission (OFPMC)
  • Ontario Food Terminal Board (OFTB)
  • Rural Economic Development Advisory Panel (REDAP)

For more information, contact:

Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission
1 Stone Road West, 5th Floor SW
Guelph, Ontario
N1G 4Y2
Tel: 519-826-4220
Toll-free: 1-888-466-2372

Ontario Ministry of Attorney General (MAG)

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario falls under MAG and has jurisdiction over the following acts:

For more information, contact:

Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario
90 Sheppard Avenue East, Suite 200-300
Toronto, Ontario
M2N 0A4
Tel: 416-326-8700
Toll-free: 1-800-522-2876

Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks

The Ministry of the Environment Conservation and Parks is responsible for:

For more information, contact:

Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
135 St. Clair Avenue West, Main Floor
Toronto, Ontario
M4V 1P5
Toll-free: 1-888-758-2999

Employment law

See the Human resources section of this book for more information on regulations pertaining to employment standards and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations.

Municipal regulations

Local municipalities are responsible for enforcing the Ontario Building Code that control the location of food processing operations, water and energy usage and waste disposal.

To find your local municipal office, check the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing website for a list of Ontario municipalities.

United States regulations

There are specific regulations you must follow when your products are destined for the United States.

United States Food and Drug Administration

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for all food products entering the United States except meat and poultry (FDA).

If you intend to make products for US markets, these laws will apply to you:

  • Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act
  • Fair Packaging and Labelling Act
  • Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990

You must register with the FDA if the products you ship to the US include low-acid canned food and acidified food processing.

You’ll find information about exporting to the US on the FDA’s website.

For more information, contact:

US Food and Drug Administration
Office of International Programs/Office of Executive Operations
10903 New Hampshire Avenue, Building 31/32 Silver Spring, Maryland
M4V 1P5
Tel: 301-796-4600
Fax: 301-595-7937

United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service

The department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) ensures that all meat, poultry and egg products imported into the US are safe, wholesome and correctly labelled and packaged. These requirements come under the following acts:

  • Federal Meat Inspection Act
  • Poultry Products Inspection Act
  • Egg Products Inspection Act

Information for exporters to the United States can be found on the FSIS Import and Export webpage.