This discussion summarizes the compliance issues and considerations related to the federal Safe Food for Canadians Regulations which area administered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Significant topics covered include:

  • SFCR Rules & Requirements for Wineries 
  • Timelines

Title: Traceability Regulations for Wineries (Safe Food for Canadians Regulations)

Date: July 12, 2020

Author: Mark Hicken, BA JD

This document contains a general discussion of the issues noted which was prepared on the date noted above. It does not constitute legal advice and was not prepared for you specifically. If you or your business needs a legal opinion, you should contact a lawyer for individual and updated advice. 

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Introduction

On July 15, 2020 (the "effective date"), new federal regulations come into effect that apply to BC wineries. These rules are contained in the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR). The rules establish a "traceability" system that is required for producers and distributors of food products (including alcoholic beverages such as wine). The general intent of the rules is to require that producers and distributors be able to trace the origin and distribution of the food one step forward and one step back (i.e. for a winery, it needs to be able to trace the origin of the ingredients in the wine one step backward, for example, where the grapes came from ... and one step forward, for example, the finished wine was sold to a retail store in Vancouver). The purpose of these rules is to enable more efficient and quicker recalls of food products in situations where the product needs to be recalled (e.g. due to contamination or defect). While it is true that wine rarely needs to be recalled because of its inherent safety as a food product, it is not exempt from the rules.

SFCR Rules & Requirements for Wineries

As of the effective date, wineries will generally need to do the following:

  • Obtain a License. The SFCR system requires that a license be obtained from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The fee is approximately $250 for 2 years.
  • Create a written Preventive Control Plan (PCP) to govern compliance with the SFCR rules.
  • Label all wine products in compliance with the SFCR rules, which generally means that each unique wine product must be labelled in a way that it could be easily identified if it needed to be recalled. The language in the rules requires the use of either a "lot code" or a "unique identifier".

In respect of the above, the license requirement can be satisfied through the online application process that is explained through the link above (CFIA web site). The PCP requirement will generally require that the winery set out in writing how it will keep track of and record the ingredients that it obtains for each unique wine product and also keep track of to whom those products are sold to (note: it is not required to keep track of retail level customers - only wholesale level). Generally, a winery should already be doing these things to comply with other regulatory requirements such as those imposed by the BC Wine Authority, LDB and LCRB. However, technically, a separate written PCP is required for compliance under the SFCR. 

The most important requirement is the labelling requirement. The rules require that each unique product be labelled with its common name (which would obviously already be done for wine products) and, as noted above, with either a "lot code" or "unique identifier". However, neither of these terms is defined. In the context of wine, this essentially means that each unique wine product (e.g. a wine produced from a certain batch of grapes or a wine produced by blending other wines) must be labelled in a distinctive way. For many small producers, it would be sufficient to label the wine according to current standard practices, such as using a vintage designation or vineyard designation. In other words, if a winery produced one batch of Pinot Noir in 2020 with common ingredients, it could satisfy the requirement simply by labelling the wine as ABC Winery Pinot Noir Vintage 2020. However, this would only work if there was only one batch of that wine produced from the same ingredients. If the winery made more than one batch of Pinot Noir in 2020 from different sources, it would need to find a way to identify that wine separately on the label if it was not already doing that.

The above requirements could produce more stringent labelling requirements for any producer (such as larger wineries) that produce more than one batch of a wine product or which produce products that are not typically labelled with unique identifiers such as a vintage or vineyard designation. In such circumstances, the winery would be required to add a new unique identifier to the wine for each batch. That could be a "lot code" or something else unique to the batch such as a production date identifier.

It should be noted that the addition of unique identifiers would assist the winery in the event that a recall was necessary because if there are no unique identifiers, all product would have to be recalled.