Health Canada pesticide compliance program: Activity report 2022-2023

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Organization: Health Canada

Date published: January 2024

ISBN: 2816-9883

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Program description

Health Canada's Pesticide Compliance Program (PCP) is responsible for promoting, verifying and enforcing compliance with the Pest Control Products Act (PCPA) and its Regulations. The primary objective of this legislation is to prevent unacceptable risks to the health and safety of the people of Canada and their environment from the use of pest control products, more commonly known as pesticides. More specifically, the PCP aims to prevent unauthorized pesticides from being available on the Canadian market and to see that authorized pesticides are imported, manufactured, distributed and used in accordance with the registration conditions established by Health CanadaFootnote 1.

The PCP is administered by Health Canada's Regulatory Operations and Enforcement Branch (ROEB) and has approximately 40 inspectors located across the country to deliver on its mandate. Its activities are supported by Health Canada's Pesticides Laboratory located in Ottawa.

The PCP provides oversight of all parties regulated by the PCPA and its Regulations, including registrants, manufacturers, importers, retailers, and users. As such, the PCP organizes its operational delivery along four key sectors: Registrants, Import, Marketplace, and Users.

The program conducts compliance promotion, compliance verification and enforcement activities:

The delivery of compliance activities is prioritized based on a number of criteria including, but not limited to, potential risks to human health and the environment, compliance history, considerations such as observations from the field, information from Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) and provincial and territorial regulators, complaints received, and data analysis. Regulatory changes including the decisions made by the PMRA through the Re-evaluation and Special Review processes are also used to identify priority areas for compliance verification as these processes can result in the cancellation of products or significant label changes that include new risk mitigation measures.

Compliance verification activities that support these regulatory changes focus each year on different pesticides and regulated party types within the various sectors. In 2022-2023, compliance verification priorities were targeted to sectors and activities affected by label changes and use cancellations recently implemented as a result of re-evaluation decisions (see Table 1).

Table 1: 2022-2023 Prioritized active ingredients for compliance verification.
Sector Active ingredients targeted for compliance verification
Registrants Acephate (RVD2020-07), Chlorpyrifos (REV2021-04), Permethrin (REV2019-11), and Strychnine (RVD2020-06)
Marketplace Sodium Bromide (RVD2018-36) and Ultraviolet Radiation-emitting (UV) and Ozone-generating Devices (SOR/2022-99)
Agricultural Users Ferbam (RVD2018-37), Metiram (RVD2018-20), Thiram (RVD2018-38) and Ziram (RVD2018-39)
Non-Agricultural Users Acephate (RVD2020-07), Aluminum/Magnesium Phosphide and Phosphine Gas (RVD2015-03), Aminopyridine (Avitrol) (RVD2016-06), beta-Cyfluthrin (RD2017-01), Carbaryl (RVD2016-02), Chlorothalonil (RVD2018-11), Chlorpyrifos (REV2021-04), Cyfluthrin (RVD2018-35), Diazinon (REV2017-13), Diflufenzopyr (RVD2018-08), Fluroxypyr (RVD2019-03), Iprodione (RVD2018-16), Mancozeb (RVD2020-12), Permethrin (REV2019-11), Phosmet (RVD2020-11), and Thiophanate-methyl (RVD2020-13).

The PCP works collaboratively with international, federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal partners in a number of areas. This can include conducting joint inspections, delivering compliance promotion activities, participating in intergovernmental working groups, supporting provincial/territorial certification and/or licensing activities, and sharing compliance and enforcement information on emerging pesticide issues and best practices. The dissemination of important regulatory information can also occur with support from industry associations and networks.

2022-2023 Results summary

The following summarizes the results of compliance activities for 2022-2023:

The most common contravention identified in 2022-2023 was the importation of unregistered pesticide products. Other contraventions observed across regulated parties included the possession and distribution of unregistered pesticides, the use of pesticides inconsistent with the label directions, and the advertising of pesticides in a way that is contrary to the PCPA and its Regulations.

A total of 1885 enforcement actions addressing single or multiple violations were issued to non-compliant regulated parties:

Key activities and results by sectors

Registrant sector

Sector introduction

On March 31, 2023, there were 710 registrants in Canada. Registrants are responsible for pesticide registration with the PMRA and ensuring that the pesticides available in the Canadian marketplace meet the requirements of the PCPA and its Regulations and the conditions of registration.

Registrant inspections

Registrants were targeted for inspection using selection criteria that include, but are not limited to, no history of inspection, compliance history, sales volume and the manufacturing or distribution of pesticides containing active ingredients that have recently undergone re-evaluations. In 2022-2023, registrants with pesticides containing active ingredients acephate, chlorpyrifos, permethrin, and strychnine were targeted for inspection.

A total of 129 off-site inspections were conducted in this sector. Of these inspections, 97 were planned (including two targeted to previous non-compliant registrants) and 32 were reactive. A total of 104 out of the 710 registrants in Canada, or 15% of all registrants, were inspected in 2022-2023. Some reactive inspections did not involve registrants as defined by the PCPA as they were conducted on companies that manufactured and distributed unregistered pesticides.

At least one instance of non-compliance was observed in 52 (41%) of the inspections conducted. The most common contraventions related to manufacturing and/or distribution of pesticides contrary to conditions of registration (PCPA 6(2)), deficiencies in packaging and/or labelling (PCPA 6(3)), deficiencies in sales reporting (PCPA 8(5)), and advertising in a false, misleading or erroneous manner (PCPA 6(7)).

A total of 42 warning letters and one compliance order were issued to the non-compliant regulated parties. One registrant targeted for previous non-compliance was again found non-compliant. PCP applied escalated enforcement measures to induce the non-compliant registrant to fully comply with the PCPA and its associated Regulations.

A total of 67 inspections targeted registrants of pesticides impacted by re-evaluation decisions (see Table 1). There was no non-compliance established in relation to the re-evaluation decisions of acephate, chlorpyrifos and strychnine. However, the inspections did identify 10 labels of pesticides containing permethrin that had not been updated to comply with the permethrin re-evaluation decision. Registrants of these products received warning letters to amend labels.

Registrant inspection findings, the criteria used to support the assessment and overall compliance ratings are available on Health Canada's website.

Import sector

Sector introduction

About 85% of pesticides used in Canada are foreign-made and imported into the country, resulting in approximately 2,500 commercial pesticide import transactions per month. Direct importation of pesticides by consumers for personal use continues to rise and results in thousands of personal import transactions each month. The PCP conducts a range of compliance and enforcement activities within this sector to target shipments containing unauthorized pesticide, to prevent the entry of unauthorized pesticides into Canada and to take enforcement actions against non-compliant importers.

Verification of commercial trade data

Commercial importation data from the CBSA and other sources are used to gather information about suspected non-compliant commercial importers. Commercial importers are targeted for inspection based on factors including, but not limited to, the importer's compliance history and the known importation of unauthorized products.

Of the six inspections of targeted commercial importers in 2022-2023, four found at least one instance of importation of an unauthorized pesticide. Four warning letters and one compliance order were issued to non-compliant commercial importers under the PCPA and its Regulations. An additional notice of violation with penalty of $11,000 was issued to a commercial importer under the AAAMP Act. Non-compliant importers have been targeted for re-inspections.

Inspections at border points

The PCP collaborates with CBSA to identify, examine and intercept shipments containing non-compliant pesticides. This includes a regular presence at each of Canada's three mail centres and other border points. In 2022-2023, the PCP received 1554 referrals of pesticide shipments from CBSA, 1473 (95%) of which were refused entry into Canada for not being registered or authorized for use in Canada (unlawful under the PCPA 6(1)). The majority of refused pesticides (80%) were insecticides including lawn care and structural pesticides, pet flea and tick control products, and personal insect repellents, 8% were herbicides, 3% were vertebrate control pesticides, 2% were fungicides, 2% were antimicrobials, 1% were devices, and 3% were varied pesticides.

Those pesticides were generally intended for personal use and originated from various countries, with the majority being registered in the United States and purchased online.

As a result of the PCP's collaboration with the CBSA, a total of 28 units of unauthorized pest control devices and more than 6,003 kg of unauthorized pesticides were prevented from entering Canada in 2022-2023. In addition to the entry refusal of unauthorized pesticides, 1473 warning letters were issued to importers who attempted to bring unauthorized pesticides into Canada. One compliance order was also issued to an importer for non-compliance under the PCPA and its Regulations.

Marketplace sector

Sector Introduction

There are thousands of retailers and distributors across Canada that sell pesticides to Canadians through physical establishments, online presence, or a combination of both. The PCP verifies that only pesticides compliant with the PCPA and its Regulations are offered for sale in Canada.

Marketplace inspections of physical establishments

The PCP conducted planned marketplace inspections in 2022-2023 focussing on independent retailers, agricultural vendors, antifouling paint stores, international distribution centres, and pool and spa retailers including those selling pesticides containing sodium bromide and UV and ozone-generating devices. Sodium bromide has recently been re-evaluated by PMRA, while UV and ozone-generating devices were subject to regulatory amendments. These modifications involved label changes, including new risk mitigation measures for some uses and cancellation of other uses. The PCP verified that pesticide products being offered for sale had the amended labels as required by the re-evaluation decisions.

A total of 179 planned inspections (including five targeted to previously non-compliant retailers) were conducted and 60 (34%) identified at least one instance of non-compliance with the PCPA and its Regulations. Three retailers targeted for previous non-compliance were again found non-compliant. Among planned inspections of retailers, 14 had a focus on the re-evaluation actives noted above. Of these, two (14%) identified non-compliance related to distribution and advertising of unregistered pesticides containing sodium bromide. Two warning letters were issued to non-compliant retailers.

Online marketplace

Since 2015, PCP has observed a rise in the number of complaints related to unregistered pesticides sold through e-commerce, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. This is consistent with the expansion of pesticides offered for sale online, and the rapid adoption of the virtual marketplace by consumers, largely as a result of the diversification of e-commerce distribution models which now also include third party re-sell platforms in addition to retailer web sites. With online pesticide distribution projected to continue to grow, the online marketplace is now, for the PCP, an annual area of focus for proactive compliance monitoring and addressing high risk products.

The PCP pursued its direct work with the top 10 on-line platforms in Canada (representing more than 95% of online pesticides available to Canadians) to support their continued use of keyword or geographic-based filters to help prevent unregistered pesticides from being advertised and distributed to Canadians. This included newly identified unregistered products as well as certain ultraviolet radiation-emitting and ozone generating devices recently regulated under the PCPA.

During 2022-2023, the Program conducted 193 reactive inspections including marketplace inspections of pesticide postings on online platforms; of these, 167 (87%) identified at least one instance of non-compliance with the PCPA and its Regulations.

Overall, in 2022-2023, 372 inspections were conducted in physical establishments and online marketplace; of these 227 (61%) identified at least one instance of non-compliance. The most common violation was the possession and distribution of unregistered pesticides (PCPA 6(1)). A total of 156 warning letters and 8 compliance orders were issued under the PCPA and its Regulations. Four notices of violation with penalty (totalling $40,000) were also issued under the AAAMP Act.

User sector

Sector introduction

This sector consists of both agricultural and non-agricultural users. There are over 190,000 agricultural users and approximately 42,000 non-agricultural users (e.g., licensed applicators and industrial users) in Canada. The agricultural user subsector is composed of growers of food and non-food crops (e.g., specialty and large field crops, greenhouses, floriculture, berries, tree fruit, animal husbandry, forestry, aquaculture, outdoor nurseries, and agriculture aerial application). The non-agricultural user subsector includes landscape and structural pest management professionals (PMPs), vegetation management applicators, arborists, golf course applicators and industrial users. The large volume and diversity of this sector makes it an important focus for compliance promotion and compliance verification activities.

Agricultural users

In 2022-2023, commercial agricultural aerial applicators, growers of apples, Christmas trees, potatoes, and small fruits and berries (i.e., Saskatoon berries, blueberries, raspberries) were selected for inspections as use directions for products used on these food crops have changed significantly as a result of the re-evaluation decision on ferbam, metiram, thiram and ziram.

In total, 146 growers were inspected across Canada. Of these inspections, 114 were planned, including one inspection targeting a previously non-compliant grower, and 32 were related to complaints involving drift. There were two contraventions in relation to the use of ferbam among all growers inspected, one contravention in relation to the use of metiram, and three contraventions in relation to the use of thiram. Overall, 77 (53%) inspections in this sector were found to have at least one instance of non-compliance.

Commonly observed violations included the use of pesticides inconsistent with the label directions such as rate, application method, and failure to respect restricted entry intervals (REI) (PCPA 6(5)(b)), and possession/storage and use of pesticides with expired registrations (PCPA 6 (1)). In addition, violations were noted in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) (PCPA 6(5)(a)). There were no observed non-compliance resulting from the inspection of the grower targeted for re-inspection. Overall, 75 warning letters and one compliance order were issued to non-compliant agricultural users.

Non-agricultural users

Non-agricultural users are typically Pest Management Professionals (PMP) who are certified and/or licensed by provinces or territories to apply pesticides in a variety of non-agricultural settings (e.g., homes and businesses, golf courses) to control a vast array of indoor and outdoor pests.

PMPs continued to be a focus for planned activities for fiscal year 2022-2023 due to the observance of high non-compliance rates among these users. As well, PCP typically receives a large volume of complaints about possible exposure to pesticides stemming from services delivered by PMPs. Many of the pesticides used by PMPs have recently been subject to re-evaluation decisions resulting in amendments related to residential application uses. During the inspections of non-agricultural users, the compliance with re-evaluation decisions was considered for the active ingredients listed in Table 1.

A total of 150 planned inspections of PMPs (structural, lawn care and landscape, golf course, industrial vegetative management, disinfecting and sanitization services including UV and Ozone devices, and fumigation), including eight re-inspections of previously non-compliant parties were conducted. 209 samples of pesticide tank mixtures or wipes were also collected for laboratory analysis. 86 (57%) of these inspections identified at least one instance of non-compliance. Three out the eight PMPs targeted for re-inspection were found non-compliant. Table 2 describes the compliance verifications involving the re-evaluation pesticides in the non-agricultural sector.

Table 2. Targeted compliance verifications involving re-evaluated actives in non-agricultural sector
Re-evaluation active ingredient Inspection number Instances of non-compliance number Contravention
Acephate 4 1 Possession of unregistered pesticide (PCPA 6(1))
Aluminum/Magnesium Phosphide and Phosphine Gas 9 8 Use contrary to label (PCPA 6(5)(b))
Aminopyridine (Avitrol) 5 0 n/a
beta-Cyfluthrin 23 4 Use contrary to label (PCPA 6(5)(b))
Carbaryl 9 6 Possession and storage of unregistered pesticide (PCPA 6(1))
Cyfluthrin 12 1 Use contrary to label (PCPA 6(5)(b))
Diazinon 3 2 Possession of unregistered pesticide (PCPA 6(1))
Diflufenzopyr 1 0 n/a
Mancozeb 2 1 Possession of unregistered pesticide (PCPA 6(1))
Permethrin 61 23 Use contrary to label (PCPA 6(5)(b))
Thiophanate-methyl 12 2 Possession and storage of unregistered pesticide (PCPA 6(1))

The most common contraventions noted were the possession of and use of unregistered products (PCPA 6(1)) and the use of registered pest control products inconsistent with the label directions (PCPA 6(5)(b)), particularly related to the targeting of pests not included on the label, the use of unapproved application methods or equipment, and the lack of required PPE.

Overall, 215 inspections (including those resulting from complaints) were conducted on non-agricultural users in 2022-2023. A rate of 53% non-compliance was observed with 115 inspections identifying at least one instance of non-compliance. This resulted in the issuance of 104 warning letters and seven compliance orders under the PCPA and its Regulations. An additional two notices of violation with penalty (totalling $20,000) were issued to non-agricultural users under the AAAMP Act.

The PCP continued to work to improve compliance within this sub-sector, and undertook compliance promotion activities focused on new risk mitigation measures on labels following the re-evaluation of specific pest control products. Fact sheets promoting the changes from the re-evaluations of aminopyridine (avitrol), carbaryl, cyfluthrin, diazinon, and permethrin were distributed to the industry.

Looking ahead

In fiscal year 2023-2024, the PCP will continue delivering activities to promote, verify and enforce the Pest Control Products Act and its Regulations using a risk-based approach and responding to emerging issues. Expected areas of focus include:


Footnote 1

NOTE: The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for the monitoring of pesticides maximum residue limits (MRLs) compliance in foods on the Canadian marketplace.

Return to footnote 1 referrer

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