Understanding food safety laws
As a food business owner or manager, you need to be sure you comply with:
- Federal government food safety laws
- Northwest Territories food safety laws
- Local municipal legislation
If you fail to comply with Northwest Territories food safety laws, you risk being fined, prosecuted or even having your business closed.
Federal and territory 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Products Act, the Meat Inspection Act, and the food provisions of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, which were repealed 15 January, 2019.
Territorial food safety laws are set by:
- Northwest Territories Food Establishment Safety Regulations under the Public Health Act
These laws require that food sold in NWT is safe and suitable for human consumption and meets all standards set out in the Food Establishment Safety Regulations.
Territorial food safety laws are enforced by the Northwest Territories Department of Health and Social Services.
Permits and licences
All food establishments in NWT must have a valid Food Establishment Permit posted in order to operate.
Food Handler Certification
Northwest Territories food safety legislation
NWT Food Establishment Safety Regulations (section 37) requires food businesses to employ staff that have obtained Food Handler Certification.
At a minimum, Northwest Territories food businesses must comply with the following legislation:
- The operator of a food business is required to have Food Handler Certification. If the operator is not present, one employee present is required to have Food Handler Certification.
- Upon inspection, the operator is required to produce Food Handler Certificate(s).
The CIFS Food Handler Certification course is approved and accepted by the NWT Government.
Food Safety Certification renewal is recommended 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 territorial governments monitor food safety across NWT. 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 Northwest Territories’ food safety training 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 NWT Department of Health 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.