Food Safety Legislation
B.C. has a range of legislation covering food safety. This includes producing and processing food (such as meat, dairy products and fish), and supplying it to consumers.
Food Safety Act
The Food Safety Act regulates British Columbia’s food industry, from production and manufacturing to retail and restaurants. It provides a solid regulatory framework for B.C.’s food safety legislation, and includes the following:
- Clarifies the legal responsibility of food establishment operators with respect to the safety of their products.
- Grants inspection and enforcement powers to inspectors.
- Specifies offences and penalties for infractions.
The Ministry of Health administers the Food Safety Act at the food-processing level, while the Ministry of Agriculture administers it at the farm level.
Public Health Act
The Public Health Act governs the entire spectrum of public health in British Columbia. With respect to food safety, health officials can use the Public Health Act to complement their powers under the Food Safety Act.
The Ministry of Agriculture administers the Meat Inspection Regulation (under the Food Safety Act) in British Columbia. This regulation establishes several classes of provincial slaughter licences. Class A licences permit both slaughter and cut-and-wrap services. Class B licences permit slaughter only. Amendments to the regulation in April 2010 introduced a graduated licensing system that includes two new licences (Class D and Class E) designed to support local livestock and meat production in B.C.'s remote and rural communities.
Dairy (Milk) Products
The Milk Industry Act and the Milk Industry Standards Regulation have jurisdiction over ensuring milk and other dairy products are safe to eat. The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) licenses and inspects all dairy plants in British Columbia under this legislation. The BCCDC also provides educational materials and programs on dairy product safety. For more information, visit the BCCDC’s Dairy web site.
Fish and Shellfish
The Fish Inspection Act and Fish Inspection Regulations govern fish and shellfish harvested, processed and sold in British Columbia. Exports from B.C. fall under federal regulations. The Ministry of Agriculture issues licences for commercial fisheries, finfish and shellfish aquaculture, and fish-processing plants. The health authorities are responsible for inspecting provincially licensed fish-processing plants. To learn more, visit the BCCDC’s Fish & Shellfish website.
The health authorities administer the Food Premises Regulation, which comes from B.C.’s Public Health Act. The regulation outlines public health requirements for businesses supplying and serving food to the public. The health authorities are responsible for licensing, inspecting and responding to complaints about food facilities. They also administer the FOODSAFE education program in their jurisdiction. For information about restaurant startups, contact the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training.