The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CIFA) has implemented temporary Safe Food for Canadians (SFC) license conditions for romaine lettuce imports from the U.S. due to concerns about Escherichia coli O157:H7 contamination. SFC regulations require food businesses that import products, prepare food for export, or send food across provincial or territorial borders to have certain licenses and follow preventive food safety controls.

CIFA explained its decision by citing frequent foodborne illness outbreaks across North America that have been linked to romaine lettuce from the U.S. Specifically, CIFA points to the California Salinas Valley as a recurring source of E. coli outbreaks, including Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, San Benito, and Monterey counties.

The temporary SFC license conditions for the import of romaine lettuce originating from the U.S. will be in effect from September 28–December 22, 2022. Under the license conditions, importers of romaine lettuce or salad mixes containing romaine lettuce from the U.S. must 1) declare that the product does not originate from counties of Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, San Benito and Monterey in California’s Salinas Valley, or 2) submit an attestation form and Certificates of Analysis for each shipment to demonstrate that the romaine lettuce does not contain detectable levels of E. coli O157:H7.

Aside from meeting temporary license conditions, U.S. romaine lettuce importers must comply with other, relevant Canadian legislation. For example, lettuce grown in California and Arizona must be handled by a shipper that is a certified member of each state’s respective Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA).

Update, July 26, 2023: CIFA has implemented an additional temporary condition to import licenses, which will require sampling and testing of some California romaine lettuce prior to import into Canada. The temporary condition will be required from September 28–December 20, 2023.