Ministerial Exemption process for meat and poultry products during COVID-19 - Retail Council of Canada
Coronavirus | Food & Grocery | Product Safety

Ministerial Exemption process for meat and poultry products during COVID-19

May 20, 2020

Note that each province involved must agree before non-federally regulated establishments engage in any inter-provincial trade.

In order to alleviate potential meat shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, CFIA has put in place a process to allow on a case-by-case basis interprovincial movement of meat and poultry products from establishments that are not federally licensed.

  • CFIA’s Ministerial Exemption (ME) process will provide an exemption from the requirements of the Safe Food for Canadians Act which prohibit the sending or conveying meat or poultry products inter-provincially without a federal licence.
  • Meat and poultry products that will be subject to the ME will be produced under provincial inspection oversight and must meet all other SFCR requirements, provincial requirements as well as the requirements of the Food and Drugs Act and Food and Drug Regulations.

An ME can be issued if:

  • the exemption is necessary to alleviate the food shortage; and
  • the Minister is of the opinion that no risk of injury to human health will result from the exemption.

CFIA’s applications for MEs will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, according to the following:

  • a meat shortage is demonstrated, meaning that there is insufficient meat available within a province or territory (P/T), either from P/T or federally-licensed establishments, or from a federally-licensed establishment outside of the P/T where the shortage is said to be occurring;
  • the Government Authority of the P/T experiencing the shortage accepts the terms of how the meat products were produced in the P/T establishment that is alleviating the shortage;
  • the Government Authority of the establishment chosen to alleviate the shortage can attest that ante-mortem and post-mortem inspections have been conducted by a P/T official or a P/T designated veterinarian, and that the meat products meet minimal food safety conditions as set out in the FDA and FDR.

At no point in the supply chain can the meat products moved inter-provincially through an ME be exported, further moved inter-provincially nor can they enter a federally licensed facility.

Application Process:

  • When a shortage in the supply of meat products is experienced by a food business (for example, a retailer or a wholesaler), and the identified solution to alleviate the shortage is to source meat products outside the P/T, the food business should contact its P/T government authority.
  • If the P/T government authority agrees that a shortage exists and agrees with bringing meat products from a P/T establishment in another province that does not comply with the provisions of the SFCA and the SFCR, then the P/T Authority can assist the food business with the ME process. The procedure addresses the scenario where the food business would be the initiator for the ME application, however, the initiator could also be an industry representative or, in certain situations, the P/T Authority where the shortage is occurring.
  • Applications are provided to the initiator by the P/T Authority, when there is agreement that a shortage exists. (i.e. P/T Authority provides the initiator with the CFIA Procedures to apply for a ME for the purpose of alleviating a shortage in the supply of meat and poultry products  and the associated forms).
  • The initiator will complete one part of the ME application to provide information on the meat shortage, identify the P/T establishment (in another province) that would supply the meat products, and the quantity and type of meat products required to alleviate the shortage. The P/T Authority of the initiator will confirm that there is a shortage of meat products, and agree to accept the meat from a plant that is not federally licenced.
  • The business alleviating the shortage (supplier) and its P/T Government Authority will complete the other part of the ME application, attesting that the meat products comply with sections 4, 5 and 7 of the Food and Drugs Act, meet the conditions for ante-mortem and post-mortem inspection, and the establishment is in good standing with the P/T.
  • Applications are submitted to CFIA’s National Centre for Permissions where they will be reviewed for completeness and verify the declarations from P/T Government Authorities.

For more information, contact Jason McLinton, VP Grocery Division and Regulatory Affairs at