Import Regulations for Small Business

Navigating the regulations for importing goods to Canada can often be confusing.  With the rules frequently changing it is important that you keep up to date on the latest amendments in order to stop your small business from incurring financial penalties.

Are your papers in order?

According to the customs legislation all importers should ensure that their imported products are declared at a customs checkpoint with the required certified documents.  Failure to present these documents can often result in financial penalties or having your consignment returned to the country of origin.

Here are some examples of the regulations and certifications required when importing goods to Canada:

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

To keep up-to-date on any changes to legislation for any food, agriculture or animal based products; importers should monitor announcements from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

Many importers wrongly assume that food products sold in the US, EU or across Asia will be automatically let into Canada.  However, this can often be a costly mistake.  Canada’s laws are very stringent on products, so it’s essential that you review the ingredients of any products that you import.  One example of this is the use of saccharine in food products.  Although allowed in the US, products which contain this ingredient will be automatically destroyed or returned to the country of origin if they reach Canadian shores.

Another area which can cause confusion is the requirement for a veterinary certificate for some food products, particularly if imported from Europe.  The certificate identifies the country of origin, includes a detailed description of the product and the technical use of the product. Certificates must be provided by a Canadian accredited organization in the country of origin.  If the goods are imported without this certificate or it is supplied with missing information, the CFIA are authorized to destroy the goods or return them to the country of origin.

Health Canada

Health Canada is responsible for the regulations that govern products and labelling for consumer goods such as children’s toys, beds, jewellery, cosmetics, medicine and much more.

The primary legislation which governs consumer products under Health Canada is the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA).  The CCPSA concentrates on the safety of products and any hazards they may incur, including:

  • Labelling and packaging of products
  • Mechanical hazards (e.g. small parts which are seen as choking hazards in toys)
  • Flammable hazards (e.g. children's sleepwear, futons)
  • Toxicology hazards (i.e. lead in children's toys and jewellery)

An Example:

Health Canada issued a warning to Canadians that eleven professional hair smoothing solutions had been found to contain levels of formaldehyde above the legal limit.  They are now working with Canadian distributors address their concerns and to stop the sale of those products.  Health Canada continues to monitor the marketplace to find any other similar affected products that may have been distributed in Canada.

Important Steps You Should Take

There are many rules and regulations which govern the importing of goods and failure to follow those rules can incur loss of both money and clients, so take these three steps to help prevent issues at the border:

  1. Before starting your import business, ensure that the products you would like to import are authorized by the Federal Government.
  2. When importing your goods, ensure that you have the correct paperwork which is required for the specific products you have chosen to import.  
  3. Ensure that you monitor any changes to rules or regulations on a regular basis.

Need Help?

Small Business BC has introduced a new workshop on Importing Regulations for Small Business. Led by our Trade Expert, Sandra Light, this roundtable discussion will provide both future and current importers with the opportunity to meet representatives from each of the federal departments responsible for these regulations.  

This workshop will run once a semester at the Small Business BC Education Centre, starting October 27, 2011.

Visit the seminars page for more information.

Have You Heard the News?

Nominations for the Small Business BC Successful You Awards are now open.  Nominate your business for one of the six categories and pitch your way to success.

Last year's winners received over $200,000 in media coverage.  So why not nominate your small buisness today?