Understanding food safety laws
As a food business owner or manager, you need to be sure you comply with:
- Federal government food safety laws
- Nova Scotia provincial food safety laws
- Local municipal legislation
If you fail to comply with Nova Scotia food safety laws, you risk being fined, prosecuted or even having your business closed.
Federal and provincial laws
Health Canada is responsible for establishing policies and setting food safety standards for food businesses.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is responsible for enforcing these policies and standards.
The following are federal acts and regulations related to food safety in Canada:
- Food and Drugs Act
- Safe Food for Canadians Act
Note: The Safe Food for Canadians Act consolidates the authorities of the Fish Inspection Act, the Canada Agricultural Products Act, the Meat Inspection Act, and the food provisions of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, which were repealed 15 January, 2019.
Provincial food safety laws are set by:
- Nova Scotia Food Safety Regulations
- Nova Scotia Health Protection Act
- Nova Scotia Food Retail and Food Services Code
These laws require that food sold in Nova Scotia is safe and suitable for human consumption and meets all standards set out in the Health Protection Act.
Provincial food safety laws are enforced by the Nova Scotia Inspection, Compliance and Enforcement Division within the Department of Environment.
Permits and licences
In Nova Scotia, it's illegal to establish or operate a food business without a permit.
Permits are issued by the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and need to be renewed every year.
Food Handler Certification
Nova Scotia food safety legislation
Nova Scotia’s Food Safety Regulations (section 28) under the Health Protection Act requires food businesses to employ staff that have obtained Food Handler Certification.
To receive Food Handler Certification, Food Handlers are required to complete a Nova Scotia approved Food Handler training course.
At a minimum, Nova Scotia food businesses must comply with the following legislation:
- The operator of a food business must successfully complete a food safety training course recognized by the Nova Scotia Government.
- If the operator is absent from the premises, another staff member must be present who has completed a recognized course - there must be a trained person on the premises at all times.
- Any person in a food establishment that comes into contact with food must:
- be trained in food safety to a level appropriate to the activity that the person performs
- provide confirmation of food safety training to an Inspector on request
Food Handler Certification is a legal requirement for many of your staff, but it's recommended to certify every staff member who handles food in your business.
Having your workforce complete a Food Handler Certification course helps ensure your business is never the cause of food poisoning.
The CIFS Food Handler Certification course is approved and accepted by the Nova Scotia Government.
Food Handler Certification requires renewal every five years.
Businesses that do not meet the minimum requirements open themselves to fines.
If your Certified Food Handler unexpectedly resigns or is not present during an inspection, Inspectors may penalize your business.
Food safety inspections
Federal and provincial governments monitor food safety across Nova Scotia. Be prepared for Inspectors to visit your business before its opening and then every four to six months after.
Inspectors will request to see Food Handler Certificates and your Food Safety Plan.
They also have the authority to:
- enter your business at any time without notice
- examine any area and equipment in your business
- take samples of food or food contaminants
- issue warning notices and fines
- close your business immediately
What happens if I don’t comply?
If a food business fails to meet Nova Scotia’s food safety requirements, the consequences are severe.
For serious offences, your Food Establishment Permit may be suspended or revoked, closing your business immediately.
Each offence committed may result in fines totalling tens of thousands of dollars.
For serious breaches, employees, proprietors, managers and directors may be prosecuted.
Inspection results are available to the public on the Nova Scotia provincial website.
When public health is at risk, your business may have food seized and destroyed.
Brand and reputation damage
Your business may struggle to recover its reputation if the media reports a food safety incident.