Understanding food safety laws
As a food business owner or manager, you need to be sure you comply with:
- Federal government food safety laws
- Ontario provincial food safety laws
- Local municipal legislation
If you fail to comply with Ontario 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Products Act, the Meat Inspection Act, and the food provisions of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, which were repealed 15 January, 2019.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:
- Ontario Food Premises Regulation under the Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act
- Ontario Food Safety and Quality Act
These laws require that food sold in Ontario is safe and suitable for human consumption and meets all standards set out in the Ontario Food Premises Regulations.
Food safety in Ontario is governed by local health authorities.
Food Handler Certification
Ontario food safety legislation
Ontario’s Food Premises Regulations (section 32) under the Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act requires food businesses to employ staff that have obtained Food Handler Certification.
To receive Food Handler Certification, Food Handlers are required to complete an Ontario approved Food Handler Certification course.
At a minimum, food business operators must have at least one employee on their premises during all hours of operation who has completed Food Handler Certification training.
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 Ontario Government.
In Ontario, Food Handler Certification renewal is required 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
Provincial governments, municipalities and regional health authorities monitor food safety across Ontario. 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 your business fails to meet Ontario’s food safety requirements, the consequences are severe.
For serious offences, your licence 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 local health authority websites.
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.