The federal government initiated a livestock traceability program, following on the heels of several provincial programs.
THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY
USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT
GAIN Report Number: CA12046
New Legislative Framework for Animal Traceability
The federal government initiated a livestock traceability program, following on the heels of several
provincial programs. Initially, the federal traceability program was touted as a means through which
Canada could increase its competitiveness in foreign markets. However, in the process of
implementation, both Canadian industry and government officials are claiming unexpected advantages;
i.e. tracking of livestock during environmental crisis such as floods and fires. The Conference Board of
Canada, a moderate think tank, just published a study which recommends that all firms in the food
supply chain need to be able to accurately trace products or ingredients one step forward and one step
back in the supply chain. Many food industry firms in Canada already comply with the principle of one-
step-forward and one-step-back because of export requirements, private standards, and/or their own
internal food safety practices. However, current expectations are that traceability systems must all link
together so that the entire food supply chain is covered.
I. Development of a Traceability Framework
In 2006, the Canadian Ministry of Agriculture committed to phase in the National Agriculture and Food
Traceability System (NAFTS), and mandated the Industry-Government Advisory Committee (IGAC) on
traceability to provide a forum for cooperation and coordination among governments and industry. In
mid-2009, the Ministry pledged to develop a mandatory traceability system for livestock and poultry for
the better management of animal health and food safety issues, as well as the expansion of market
access and the improvement of efficiency. In order to deliver on its commitments, the federal
government proposes to develop a national legislative framework for animal traceability.
The proposed legislation will strengthen Canada’s existing traceability framework under the Health of
Animals Act, which already requires animal identification and elements of movement reporting. The
existing legislation intends to enhance Canada’s ability to manage animal and human health issues,
respond to disease outbreaks and natural disasters affecting agriculture, and manage food safety issues
originating from the livestock sector. The proposed framework includes the six following elements and
their specific regulatory requirements:
1) Animal Identification
2) Location Identification
3) Movement and Other Event Reporting
4) Authorized Uses and Sharing of Information
6) Reporting and Record Keeping
(a) Animal Identification
The proposed framework intends to retain current requirements under the Health of Animals Act and
permit further development of specific regulatory requirements. The specific regulatory requirements are
The ability to confirm the identity of an animal either by determining if a unique
identification device has been applied to an animal or by allocating a group (lot or flock)
The ability to enable the use of alternative methods of identification for certain species (e.g.
DNA, retinal scan) with evolution of science and technology;
The ability to require the identification of imported animals in a manner consistent with
existing requirements for domestic animals; and
When there is industry support for the collection of the information, the ability to require the
collection of information related to additional attributes of animals (e.g. breed, genetic
(b) Location Identification
According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the identification of animal locations is
crucial for the integrity of any traceability system. Premises identification and validation is a provincial
responsibility and implementation has already been initiated in many provinces. In order to ensure
consistency and allow for better location identification, the following specific regulatory requirements
have been proposed:
The ability to require the identification of locations where animals are kept, assembled or
The ability to require that locations be identified prior to the movement of animals to and
from those locations;
The ability to maintain and link the identity of an animal with its birth place/origin and other
key locations that the animal has inhabited within Canada; and
The ability to easily identify the said locations that are registered as “linked”, i.e. premises
which are considered as a single (animal health) unit because of the regular movements of
animals/products between them.
(c) Movement and Other Event Reporting
The scope of movement information requirements, by species, would be developed through extensive
industry-CFIA consultation. Once technology and industry infrastructure are in place, the framework
would include the following regulatory requirements:
The ability to relate the identity of an animal with important movements along the life-cycle
The ability to require custodians of animals to report key animal movements during their
lives, including the means of transportation used to move the animals;
The ability to establish and record which animals came in contact with other animals during
movement from one location to another;
The ability to require the reporting of certain movement information at designated
geographical check-points or zones (e.g. West Hawk Lake);
The ability to require reporting of events (e.g. allocation, manufacture, distribution, sale,
application, activation, replacement, retirement) related to approved means of identification
(e.g. ear tags); and
The ability to require custodians to report other events (e.g. animal importation and
(d) Authorized Uses and Sharing of Information
The current animal identification program in Canada requires collection of personal and confidential
information. Some provincial governments also require the reporting of such information. To address
stakeholders’ concerns about information protection and privacy, the following regulatory requirements
may be developed:
Ability to clearly define authorized and appropriate uses of traceability information. The
information collected under this framework would only be used for those purposes;
Ability to limit access to traceability information for use by provincial and federal
governments, as well as others (e.g. veterinarians and emergency responders) entrusted to
manage animal, human health and food safety issues; and
Ability to allow access to aggregate and non-personal information contained within the
traceability databases for purposes other than the management of health issues and
emergencies such as: animal demographic studies, analysis of disease trends, simulations of
The proposed framework would include provisions to promote compliance by the regulated parties. In
order to achieve such compliance, the CFIA would take a progressive approach beginning with
education, advice, and awareness building, followed by inspections and enforcement where necessary.
In more depth, the framework would permit:
The ability to apply penalties for unauthorized uses and disclosures of personal information
collected under the framework;
The ability to create prohibitions, e.g. failure to identify an animal prior to its sale; and
The ability to develop and employ a compliance and enforcement program prescribing
responsibilities for all stakeholders and defining contraventions of those provisions.
(f) Reporting and Record Keeping
The current animal identification program in Canada mandates the reporting of information to the
appointed industry administrator, and not-for-profit industry-led organizations that collect information
from those regulated parties. The proposed framework would use the same approach to require
information reporting. It would permit:
The reporting of animal and location identification data, and movement information in a
prescribed format, manner and timeframe.
Ability to conduct compliance verifications based on on-site records corresponding to the
data submitted to industry-led administrators.
Recording and retaining information corresponding to some events that may be excluded
from the reporting requirements (e.g. record keeping requirements for movement of sheep 18
months of age or older under section 175.1 of the Health of Animals Regulations).
Establishment of clear guidelines and schedules for the retention and disposition of personal
and confidential data collected under the traceability framework.
Expedited requirements for the reporting of traceability information during emergencies.
The proposed framework may be read at the following webpage:
II. Existing Traceability Regulations and Standards
Health of Animals Act
In 1990, the Canadian Department of Justice published the Health of Animals Act. This Act set
numerous requirements for the importation, exportation, inspection, and disposition of animals. In
regard to inspection, the Act states that an inspector or officer may require any person to present any
animal, related documentation, or related record, if deemed necessary. The inspector may then
reproduce and use any records presented, which may include approved tags and other traceability
The Health of Animals Act may be read at the following URL:
Apart from the Health of Animals Act, very few mandatory traceability requirements are in place at the
federal level. However, voluntary standards are in place, including the standards outlined by Can-Trace.
Can-Trace is a voluntary industry-led initiative that encourages communication within the supply chain,
ensuring that the necessary framework for Canadian traceability is designed for implementation. Can-
Trace resulted from the landmark governmental agreement in 2003, entitled the Agriculture Policy
Agreement (APF). A national traceability solution was crucial in order to support and move forward
with the APF, which led to the launch of Can-Trace in July of 2003. Can-Trace receives a portion of its
funding from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through the Canadian Food Safety and Quality
Can-Trace’s traceability standards are based on the philosophy that data must be “collected, kept and
shared” by all participants in the food supply chain in order to achieve and maintain successful
traceability. The standard is voluntary, multi-sector, and based on global standards. The Canadian Food
Traceability Data Standard (CFTDS) outlines minimum elements for participants to follow, in order to
establish successful traceability, and they are as follows:
More information on Can-Trace is available at its website:
Quebec’s Provincial Traceability System
Quebec, as the first province to adopt a traceability system, set up traceability infrastructure in 1998 at
the provincial level. Stemming from a partnership between government and agricultural producers,
Agri- Traçabilité Québec (ATQ) was created in 2001. Since then, ATQ has been responsible for
implementing the traceability system, which has been governed by provincial regulations, including the
Food Products Act, the Animal Health Protection Act, and the Regulation Respecting the identification
and traceability of certain animals. The Food Products Act and Animal Health Protection Act allowed
for the government to create traceability regulations, which led to the Regulation Respecting the
identification and traceability of certain animals. This regulation sets forth all Quebec requirements for
animal identification, registration, tags, transit, and slaughter in relation to traceability. Quebec’s entire
traceability system is based primarily on identification of livestock at birth. The system has three
cornerstones which are as follows:
At birth, animals including, but not limited to, beef and sheep are assigned a 15-digit
identification number. This number is printed on identifier tags that follow the animal for life.
An electronic tag is placed on the right ear and a visual, plastic tag is placed on the left.
All sites including farms, pastures, auction sites, slaughterhouses, pathology and gathering
centers, zoos, genetic evaluation stations, etc. are assigned a 7-digit identification number. This
number makes it possible to track the movement of animals from site-to-site.
Any site transfer of animals is required to reported and recorded on identification tags.
Below is an example of an identification tag to reflect the three cornerstones:
The Regulation respecting the identification and traceability of certain animals may be found at the
More information on Quebec’s traceability system can be found on ATQ’s website:
Alberta’s Provincial Traceability System
In addition to Quebec, Alberta also has an established traceability system. Its traceability system is
made up of three key components: premises identification, animal identification, and animal movement
tracking. Alberta has three Acts, which pertain to and set requirements for traceability: the Animal
Health Act, the Livestock Identification and Commerce Act, and the Livestock Industry Diversification
Act. In addition, Alberta introduced a Traceability Cattle Identification Regulation in 2010, which
added tagging requirements and move-in reporting requirements for cattle.
More information on Alberta’s traceability system can be found at the website of Alberta’s Department
of Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD):
Manitoba’s Provincial Traceability System
Manitoba currently has a well-established Premises Identification Program for traceability purposes.
The system, similar to Quebec’s, involves a unique number assigned to each premises (including farms,
feedlots, pastures, hatcheries, sale and research facilities, etc.). The system has already proved useful
during Canada’s last outbreak of avian influenza and allowed for the CFIA to locate farms at risk.
Manitoba relies on the federal government for animal identification and movement record regulation.
More information on Manitoba’s Premises Identification Program can be found at:
III. Proposed Traceability Regulations
The Canadian Government is currently working on two regulations, which will significantly impact the
structure of the Canadian traceability system.
Regulations Amending the Health of Animals Regulations
The first proposed regulations are the Regulations Amending the Health of Animals Regulations. This
is the first livestock sector to be regulated under the new legislative framework, and more sectors are
likely to be regulated in the future under this framework. These amendments would allow for a formal
agreement with a third-party administrator to establish and maintain a comprehensive database
containing up-to-date information as to identification, movement, and location of all Canadian pigs.
Information would be provided to the administrator directly by pig producers, whom would identify all
pigs in their care and control them with traceability methods. The amendments prescribe four methods
of identifying and tracing pigs, including approved tags, approved slap tattoos, ear tags, and ear tattoos.
The slap tattoos will be applied to pigs heading to / exported for slaughter. The ear tags and tattoos will
be applied to pigs for export.
The proposed amendments have been developed, under guidance by the Traceability IGAC, in response
to growing concerns over possible disease outbreaks among pigs, which could negatively affect public
health, livestock sectors, and tourism. The amendments intend to facilitate more rapid and efficient
control in such an event.
The main objectives of the proposed amendments support the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s
(CFIA) strategies, including “a safe and accessible food supply and animal resource base,” the
Government of Canada’s strategies, such as “a prosperous Canada through global commerce,” and the
Canadian Pork Council’s (CPC) goals to “identify pathways where infected animals have moved,
potentially infecting other farms and swine.” The objectives are as follows:
Reduce the impacts of a disease outbreak or food safety issue resulting from or affecting the pig
Better protect public and animal health; and
Support the Canadian pork industry in order to meet international export standards.
Comments on the proposed amendment will be accepted until August 13, 2012.
For more information, including the proposed text of the bill, please see the following webpage:
Bill S-11: Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA)
The second, and less traceability-specific, regulation is the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) also
known as Bill S-11. The Government introduced this bill on June 7, 2012, and its second reading in the
senate was completed on June 20. The bill intends to strengthen the Government’s ability to protect
Canadians from unsafe food, and it will improve food oversight by:
Instituting a more consistent inspection regime across all food commodities;
Implementing tougher penalties for activities that put the health and safety of Canadians at risk;
Providing better control over imports and exports; and
Strengthening food traceability.
The Act will consolidate the Fish Inspection Act, the Canada Agricultural Products Act, the Meat
Inspection Act, and food provision of the Consumer Packaging and Labeling Act. It will align
inspection and enforcement powers for all food commodities thus improving food safety, reducing
overlap, and providing for more easily understood and complied with regulations.
While the bill is only in its early stages, it includes framework for traceability regulations requiring
identification of food commodities; records of their places of departure, destination, and location as they
move; and provision of information to those who may be affected by them. The Act will also implement
tougher fines for activities that put the health and safety of Canadians at risk, which may include (but
not be limited to) improper traceability documentation. Previously, anyone convicted of a serious
offence could have been fined up to a maximum of $250,000. Under the SFCA, penalties could be as
high as $5 million, or in the most serious cases, even higher at the court’s discretion.
The text of Bill S-11 as proposed may be found at the following URL:
More information may be found on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) website:
IV. National Traceability Service
On July 13, 2012, at the Calgary Stampede, the Canadian Government announced the creation of the
Canadian Agri-Traceability Services (CATS) . CATS is intended to be a single national livestock
traceability system with robust data management capabilities. It will bring together the combined
experience of the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) and Agri-Traçabilité Québec (ATQ),
via a joint project steering committee, to reduce costs and simplify data reporting. Once it is established,
CATS will provide traceability data services for a variety of stakeholders including the CCIA and ATQ.
A total of $765,000 is being provided by the federal government to create the data system, as well as to
help the CCIA and ATQ improve their data management capabilities.
The Conference Board of Canada report mentioned in the Executive Summary section of this report
concluded that while it might be ideal for companies to be able to trace a product or ingredient
throughout the entire supply chain, such a process is extremely complex and prohibitively expensive.
Furthermore, evaluations of this kind of system found little or no benefit to food safety, so it may not
actually be a great improvement over the one-step-forward and one-step-back approach. Traceability is
especially crucial during food safety incidents - both to speed up the response and to reduce the scale of
product recalls, which benefits both consumers and the food industry. As the Canadian livestock
traceability program progresses, post will report developments. At this time, there are already plans for
implementation of traceability programs in other sectors. We will also report on any significant
developments in those sectors.