How To Identify When Your Canadian Business Needs An SFC Licence?

Need an SFC Licence?

does your canadian business need an sfc licence?
Does your canadian business need an sfc licence?

Do you have a Canadian food business and are unsure if you need an SFC Licence? As of January 15th, 2020, Safe Foods for Canadians licence (SFC Licence) is required by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in order for businesses to manufacture, import, and export food products. Depending on the product that you manufacture, import or export, you may be required to obtain the SFC licence for conducting the activities.

Continue reading to learn a few examples of specific activities that require an SFC licence, more information on how to apply for an SFC Licence, and additional resources to guide you through the process of obtaining a licence.

What activities need a food license?

Generally, if you are importing, you will require an SFC licence. If you are exporting, you will need a licence if you are conducting the following activities, you may be required to have this licence:

  • Importing food products – you will require an SFC licence with the exception to
    • food additives
    • alcoholic beverages
    • Food listed in Schedule 1 of the SFCR if they
      • are not processed and will be manufactured, processed, or treated for use as grain, oil, pulse, sugar or beverage,
      • have a label applied or attached to them or accompanying them that states “For Further Preparation Only” and
      • are not consumer prepackaged food.
  • Exporting food products -you may require the licence if you are seeking an export certificate or another export permission such as being on an export eligibility list
  • Local food production (manufacturing, processing, treatment, preservation, packaging, grading, packaging, and labeling of food) -you may or may not require an SFC license, depending on the scope of your business activities. Additional considerations should be given if you are planning to sell the locally produced food interprovincially.

The CFIA interactive tools provide clear guidance on whether or not you will require an SFC licence and can be accessed here.

Key Activities

CFIA refers to the following key activities to determine if this licence is required. The key activities include manufacturing, processing, treatment, preservation, packaging, grading, packaging, and labeling of food.

Sector-Specific Scenarios

The following scenarios listed are scenarios that are generally common to the food industry.

  • Restaurants typically do not require an SFC licence as SFCR licensing provisions were not intended to apply to this sector. Exception, if the restaurant intends to conduct interprovincial trade.
  • An SFC licence is not normally required to store food for export and interprovincial trade. This includes the storage of food in a temperature-controlled facility exclusively to maintain the condition and quality of food. If you are conducting other key activities, you may require to obtain an SFC license

For more specific scenarios and additional details for each scenario continue reading on the Inspection Canada website HERE.

Exemptions to SFC Licence Requirements

General exemptions to the SFC License requirements include:

  • Limited amounts of food imported for personal use (see Maximum Quantity Limits for Personal Use Exemption)
  • Food that is not intended or sold for human consumption.
  • Food that is labeled for the purpose of research, evaluation, and trade shows.
  • Food that is carried on a vehicle or conveyance intended for the use of crews and the conveyance passenger
  • Your main activities are transporting food without any added value activities performed on the food products.

How to apply for a food license

If you have a Canadian food business that needs a license these are the three steps to apply for one.

Step 1: Create your My CFIA account

In order to access the license application, you must create an account and a business profile on My CFIA.

Step 2: Determine your license structure

As there is no limit to the number of licences a person can hold, your business is free to hold multiple licenses if needed. You may combine all the key activities under a single SFC licence or separate them into multiple SFC licences. Considerations should be given for

  • Cost
  • Development, maintenance, and implementation of a preventative control plan (PC) for each license hold
  • Possible implication if CFIA decides to suspend or cancel your license. Having a single SFC licence means putting your eggs in one basket while multiple licenses allow you to still operate for other activities for the non-affected licence.

Read about other considerations for food businesses that prepare food for export and need a certificate here.

Step 3: Complete the SFC licence application

When completing the licence application, ensure that you have all the required details of your business.

Within the application, you must indicate the activities that you are seeking to be licensed for, identify the location(s) of the establishment(s) of your business where activities will be conducted, and indicate the food categories for which the SFC licence is being sought as well as the location(s) of where the activity will take place. The licence is very specific to the product categories that you apply for. Ensure that you apply for all key activities and product categories relevant to your business.

Lastly, you must attest that you meet SFCR requirements, including your preventative control plan, and that the information you have provided in the application is complete, truthful, and not misleading,

Our blog provides further guidance on how to obtain this licence.

In Short

Identifying whether or not you require an SFC licence can be confusing for Canadian food manufacturers, importers and exporters. The interactive licensing tool provided by CFIA is helpful to clarify and identify your SFC licence needs.

In short, businesses importing or performing key activities to prepare food for export such as processing, treatment, preservation, packaging, grading, packaging, and labeling of food may require an SFC licence based on their key activities. There are also sector-specific scenarios that may require businesses to carry a business license.

If you determine that you will need an SFC license, you can apply online on myCFIA website. Remember, that you will need to testify that you meet the SFCR requirements including having and maintaining the Preventative Control Plan, Customer Protection Plan, Traceability, and other applicable requirements.

Need help with the Preventative Control Plan and Traceability Plan, we’d love to help. Contact SFPM Consulting at this link:

Resources for Additional Information on SFC Licenses:

Complying with SFCR: How to get an SFC LICENSE? (2020, December 25). Retrieved May 27, 2021, from

Government of Canada, C. (2021, April 19). Government of Canada. Retrieved May 27, 2021, from

Government of Canada, C. (2021, January 04). Government of Canada. Retrieved May 27, 2021, from

Licensing interactive tool – Safe Food for Canadians Regulations. (n.d.). Retrieved May 27, 2021, from


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