Understanding food safety laws
As a food business owner or manager, you need to be sure you comply with:
- Federal government food safety laws
- Quebec provincial food safety laws
- Local municipal legislation
If you don’t comply 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Products Act, the Meat Inspection Act, and the food provisions of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, which were repealed 15 January, 2019.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:
- Quebec’s Food Regulations under the Food Products Act
These laws require that food sold in Quebec is safe and suitable for human consumption and meets all standards set out in the Food Products Act.
Food safety in Quebec is governed by The Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPAQ).
Permits and licences
Most food businesses require a business licence (Permis de restauration et de vente au détail). This can be obtained through the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
Food Handler Certification
Quebec food safety legislation
Quebec’s Food Regulation (sections 22.214.171.124.1 and 2.2.4) requires food businesses to employ staff that have obtained Food Handler, Food Establishment Manager and tailored training.
At a minimum, Quebec food businesses must comply with the following legislation:
- The operator of a food business is required to have Food Establishment Manager training before applying for a business licence.
- One employee or 10% of the operator's workforce is required to have Food Handler training.
- The operator is required to have a record of training certificates for all current employees and past employees who have worked in the last 12 months.
The CIFS Food Handler Certification course is approved and accepted by the Quebec 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
Provincial governments, municipalities and regional health authorities monitor food safety across Quebec. 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 Quebec’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.
In Quebec, inspection results are available online for the public to review and share.
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.