Does Your Canadian Business Need a SFC Food License? How do you get one?


Do you have a Canadian food business and are unsure if you need an SFC License? As of January 15th, 2020, Safe Foods for Canadians license (SFC License) is a license 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 license for conducting the activities.

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

What activities need a food license?

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

  • Importing food products – you will require an SFC license with 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 a consumer prepackaged food.
  • Exporting food products -you may require an SFC license 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 labelling 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 license and can be accessed here:

Key Activities

CFIA refers to the following key activities to determine if an SFC license is required. The key activities include manufacturing, processing, treatment, preservation, packaging, grading, packaging and labelling 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 license as SFCR licensing provisions were not intended to apply to this sector. Exception, if the restaurant intends to conduct interprovincial trade.
  • An SFC license 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 License 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 labelled 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 licenses 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 license or separate them into multiple SFC licenses. Considerations should be given for

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

Read about other considerations for food businesses that prepare food for export and need a certificate here: 3: Complete the SFC license application

Step 3: Complete the SFC license application

When completing the SFC license 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 license is being sought as well as the location(s) of where the activity will take place. SFC license 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 an SFC license

In Short

Identifying whether or not you require an SFC license 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 license needs.

In short, businesses importing or performing key activities to prepare food for export such as processing, treatment, preservation, packaging, grading, packaging and labelling of food may require an SFC license 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 have and maintaining the Preventative Control Plan, Customer Protection Plan and 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

Previously posted at
简体中文 ZH-CN English EN