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7 things to know if you sell, import or manufacture consumer products

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In 2011, Health Canada introduced legislation regulating consumer products called the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act that still applies today.

Products are generally things, not services, but tangible things like soap or shower rods, flashlights or candles. Simply put, if you make, import or sell anything you can touch, this legislation likely applies to you. 

Of course there are exceptions, like tobacco, but only in certain ways, and natural health products are singled out for special treatment. But if you want to be safe, start with the assumption that everything is included under the Act. 

Here are 7 things you need to know if you don’t want to be penalized or fined:

  • Things must be safe—not according to you, but according to Health Canada.
  • The law it does not define ‘safety’, but what is dangerous.
  • What is dangerous is not always intuitive (Health Canada once claimed that rice was dangerous when inhaled). 
  • When in doubt about the thing you sell, import, or manufacture, go to the Act and Regulations; tedious, perhaps, but better safe than sorry.
  • If you even suspect something you sell, import or manufacture might be dangerous, you may need to make a report and take immediate action.
  • Always remember that with government regulation, common sense doesn’t necessarily make sense; to repeat, go to the Act when in doubt.
  • Better still, call a business counsellor at 1-888-234-2232 if it’s complicated.

And here are some other questions to ask yourself:

Does the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act apply to me?

The purpose of the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act is to protect the public by addressing or preventing dangers to human health or safety that are posed by consumer products in Canada. The Act replaces Part I and Schedule I of the Hazardous Products Act.

You have responsibilities under the Act if you:

  • manufacture a consumer product;
  • import a consumer product into Canada;
  • sell a consumer product;
  • advertise a consumer product;
  • test a consumer product; or
  • package or label a consumer product.

A consumer product under the Act is a product that may be obtained by an individual for personal use, such as for household, recreational or sports purposes.

Examples of products excluded from the Act: explosives, cosmetics, drugs, food, medical devices and ammunition. All of these products are dealt with under other legislation.

The Act also does not apply to natural health products. Natural health products are regulated under their own regulatory framework, the Natural Health Products Regulations under the Food and Drugs Act. The Act does apply to tobacco products but only in relation to their propensity to ignite.

For a full list of items not covered included in the Act please see the Appendix A of the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act Quick Reference Guide.
 

If the CCPSA applies to my business, what do I need to do?

Under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, anyone who manufactures, imports, advertises sells or tests a consumer product must prepare and maintain certain documents. The intent of these requirements is to ensure that consumer products are able to be traced throughout the supply chain at all times for the purposes of timely mandatory incident reporting, effective product recalls and routine inspections.

IMPORTANT: All required records must be kept at your place of business for at least six years and provided to Health Canada on request. In many cases, sales and purchase invoices should suffice as long as they contain all the required information listed below.

Requirements for retailers: Retailers are required to prepare and maintain documents that indicate the name and address of the person from whom they obtained the product, the location where they sold the product and the period during which they sold the product.

Requirements for all other suppliers: Anyone else who manufactures, imports into Canada, advertises, sells or tests a consumer product must prepare and maintain documents that indicate the name and address of the person from whom they obtained the product or the person to whom they sold it, or both if applicable.
 

What if the product is not made in Canada?

If the manufacturer is located outside Canada, the importer must provide the Minister with the required additional information listed below.

What do I do when I become aware of a safety issue?

Anyone who manufactures a consumer product, imports a consumer product, or sells a consumer product must provide Health Canada and their supplier with information about reportable incidents within 2 days after they become aware of the incident.
A company "becomes aware" when it can answer some or all of the following questions:

  • Does the event relate to a consumer product that I sell, manufacture or import in Canada for commercial purposes (including its components, parts or accessories or packaging)?
  • Does it meet the criteria of an 'incident' (explained below)?
  • Does it indicate an unreasonable hazard posed by the normal or foreseeable use of the product or the foreseeable misuse of the product?

To determine whether an event is a reportable "incident" it must meet at least one of the criteria below:

  • an occurrence in Canada or elsewhere that resulted or may reasonably have been expected to result in an individual's death or in serious adverse effects on their health, including a serious injury;
  • a defect or characteristic that may reasonably be expected to result in an individual's death or in serious adverse effects on their health, including a serious injury;
  • incorrect or insufficient information on a label or in instructions, or the lack of label or instructions, that may reasonably be expected to result in an individual's death or in serious adverse effects on their health, including a serious injury; or
  • a recall or measure that is initiated for human health or safety reasons by any of these entities:
    • a foreign entity,
    • a provincial government,
    • a public body established under provincial legislation,
    • an aboriginal government,
    • an institution of any of the above entities.

Examples of Reportable Events:

  • A product resulting in death/suspected of contributing to death
  • Any serious adverse health effects (illness, injury)
  • Emergency services used (i.e. paramedics)
  • Non-fatal threats to breathing such as incidents involving choking, strangulation, suffocation, aspiration or other respiratory impairment involving a consumer
  • Fire or other property damage that could have resulted in an individual's death or serious adverse effect on health (illness, injury) property has been reported damaged as a result of using a consumer product.

In order to meet the 2 day reporting requirement you must complete an incident report. Parts 1 through 4 have mandatory elements, denoted by an asterisk ( " * "); for the remaining fields, you are asked to provide as much information as possible and where applicable.

IMPORTANT: If you are the manufacturer and/or the importer of the product, you must complete the form in its entirety within 10 days of becoming aware of an incident.
 

What happens if I do not report an incident?

Where Health Canada is aware that a company has failed to report an incident, it may inform the company of their reporting obligations and by written notice outline their rights and obligations under the Act. Failure to report after that written notice may result in further compliance or enforcement action including, where appropriate, issuance of an order for recall, an order for taking other measures or prosecution.
 

Need more information?

Visit Health Canada website for more detailed information on the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, including the Quick Reference Guide to the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, guidance documents and fact sheets, or to report an incident.You can also contact a product safety officer in your region by calling 1-866-662-0666 or sending an email to [email protected].