Regulating consumer products

Learn how Health Canada regulates consumer products for health or safety reasons.

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Regulating consumer products

The Canada Consumer Product Safety Act prohibits the manufacture, import, advertising or sale of consumer products that are a danger to human health or safety. Under the Act, Health Canada has the authority to address consumer product safety risks. The Act is administered by the Consumer Product Safety Program.

Industry, including manufacturers, distributors and importers, is responsible for making sure their consumer products are safe. They must report health or safety incidents involving their products to Health Canada.

It is illegal for industry to supply products:

  • that pose a danger to human health or safety
  • if the company is under an order to carry out a recall or in situations where a company must modify a product to prevent a danger to human health or safety before distribution
  • that do not comply with the applicable regulations
  • that are packaged or labelled with misleading claims relating to health or safety
  • that are prohibited under the Act (for example, baby walkers, lawn darts)

As the consumer, you play an important role. Read product labels and follow instructions carefully. Look for new or updated public information about safety risks. Report your health or safety concerns related to consumer products to Health Canada.

Monitoring safety

Health Canada monitors the safety of consumer products through regular review of:

Assessing risk

In line with our major regulatory partners, Health Canada does not have legislative powers to approve consumer products before they can be sold in Canada. We take a risk-based approach to manage their safety. This means that we identify, assess and manage risks to human health or safety of consumer products and communicate these risks to Canadians.

We have published the Consumer Product Safety Program Risk Assessment Framework to:

  • outline principles and processes Health Canada uses in assessing risks related to consumer product safety
  • establish a risk-based approach to determine where the Department should focus its attention

Promoting and enforcing compliance

Health Canada takes steps to help protect you from health or safety risks related to consumer products. We check that industry is following the Act and its regulations by promoting and enforcing compliance.

Inspections are an important part of monitoring and verifying industry compliance. We may conduct inspections when we become aware of a health or safety incident. Other inspections are planned, targeting a specific product group or hazard. Higher-priority products, such as those intended for children, are inspected more frequently than lower-risk products.

Planned inspections are based on:

  • product risk
  • consumer or industry reports
  • previous market analysis
  • missing certification marks
  • labelling, packaging or design issues

Health Canada carries out inspections at manufacturing, import and sales locations. Our inspectors verify that manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers are fulfilling their legal obligations under the Act and its regulations. These include:

  • keeping required records
  • reporting defects and health or safety issues to Health Canada
  • selling products that are in compliance with the Act and its regulations

Some types of products are inspected every year depending on the:

  • nature of the hazard
  • age of the product users
  • recent and previous incident and injury data
  • nature of the industry and previous level of compliance

We manage risks by:

  • supporting the development of strong safety standards
  • developing new or updated regulations
  • creating consumer fact sheets and industry guidance
  • providing importers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers with information to help them meet the requirements of the Act and its regulations
  • conducting testing at the Health Canada Product Safety Laboratory to identify hazards related to consumer products
  • publishing alerts, updates and recall notices
  • promoting the safe selection and use of products through consumer information updates, alerts and advisories

If industry does not address serious health or safety concerns on their own, Health Canada can take enforcement action. This may include:

  • ordering a recall and/or stop sale
  • issuing an alert or update
  • ordering the company to address the issue
  • issuing penalties
  • prosecution

Collaborating with partners

To help improve consumer product safety, we work with a number of departments and agencies.

Many consumer products on the Canadian market are imported. The Canada Border Services Agency helps us target specific products or companies at the border.

In addition, Canada's Chemicals Management Plan addresses risks to health and the environment from chemical substances. Working with Environment and Climate Change Canada, Health Canada conducts risk assessments on these substances in consumer products. If necessary, concerns are followed up with appropriate risk management action.

We also work closely with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission because of our shared distribution networks and similar approaches to health and safety standards and enforcement. We share information on products of concern to support compliance and enforcement activities in both countries.

Engaging and informing Canadians

Health Canada engages and informs Canadians on important issues by:

Be sure to report your health or safety concerns related to consumer products to Health Canada.

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