Sending and Receiving Biologicals



Additional Information for Sending or Receiving Various Sample Types

Human Pathogens are regulated through Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). Any item listed on the Pathogen Safety Data Sheet website is regulated by PHAC. Any item NOT listed on that website is NOT regulated by PHAC - and it is likely regulated by CFIA. Microorganisms not pathogenic to humans may require a CFIA permit. E. coli strains that are not pathogenic to animals is found here.
These imports are handled by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
  • The extent of regulation of aquatic animal pathogens does not depend on risk group level; all risk group level aquatic pathogens are regulated.
  • If you are importing aquatic animal pathogens, your containment laboratory must comply with the Containment Standards for Facilities Handling Aquatic Pathogens. The MBSO will assist your laboratory with meeting these containment standards should they be required. Please note this may include an audit of your laboratory carried out by the Research Compliance Auditor or CFIA representative.
  • If you are importing aquatic animals, please contact the local CFIA Animal Health office (Hamilton) 905-572-2201 for guidance.
  • Requirement for an import permit for an aquatic animal or aquatic animal pathogen is on a case by case basis. Always consult the MBSO & Customs Office prior to importation.
These imports are handled by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
  • Importing plant pests requires compliance with Containment Standards for Facilities Handling Plant Pests. The MBSO will assist your laboratory with meeting these containment standards should they be required. Please note this may include an audit of your laboratory carried out by the Research Compliance Auditor or a CFIA Inspector.
  • Importing plants requires a risk assessment. Please contact the MBSO before proceeding to import any plants or plant material.
  • Importing soil requires that your containment laboratory must meet the phytosanitary requirements listed directive D-95-26. The MBSO will facilitate this process which includes an inspection by local CFIA inspectors.
  • Importing seeds is outlined in the CFIA's ABCs of Importing Seeds on the CFIA website.

There are some plant pests that are regulated by Canada even if they were not imported. These plant pathogens or pests require an Authorization for Use, regardless of where they were sourced. The list of regulated plant pests is found here. If you possess a plant pest listed in the "Plant Pests Regulated Under the Plant Protection Act", regardless of it source, you must apply for "Written Authorization For Use"

These imports are handled by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). It is important to know that imported animal products are evaluated for the RISK of containing animal pathogens, and animal products from " experimentally uninfected or healthy" animals are not necessarily assumed pathogen free. Imported animal products will have to be assessed for risk of pathogens and import permit requirements.

Animal by-products includes blood or any of its components, bones, bristles, feathers, flesh, hair, hides, hoofs, horns, offal, skins and wool, and any thing containing any of those things.

Animal products and animal by-products risk assessments are based on the species and location of origin. Do not assume that imported animal products from different locations will have the same import requirements.

Cell lines and lentivirus vectors are regulated based on the species origin (i.e. human or animal). CFIA regulates all parts of animal pathogens including any animal pathogen sequences found within human cell lines or lentivirus vectors. It is your responsibility to determine if your cell lines or lentivirus vectors contain animal pathogen sequences prior to notification through the BUP portal.

If you are importing cell lines or Risk Group 2 material through a distributor such as Cedarlane, the distributor will often import the material, and then transfers that material to you. They may send a number of documents for signatures or require a CFIA Containment Level 2 Compliance Letter. Please contact mbso@mcmaster.ca if additional documentation is requested by the distributor and we assist with completion.

These imports are regulated by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).These imports are regulated when the imported microorganism is:
  • Risk group 1 and cultured to a volume of over 1000L at any one time or
  • Risk group 2, 3 or 4 and cultured to a volume of over 250L at any one time or
  • Any microorganism that is released into the environment
  • Review the New Substances Notification Regulations (Microorganisms) if your samples are applicable.

Alien species are species of plants, animals (including fish),and micro-organisms introduced by human action outside their natural past or present distribution.

Invasive Alien Species are those harmful alien species whose introduction or spread threatens the environment, the economy, or society, including human health. If you wish to import plants, insects, animals or pathogens considered invasive alien species please contact mbso@mcmaster.ca for further support.

Archaeological remains are those which were not previously alive i.e. not fossils. They may be pottery, metals, wood or other items. The concern for importing these items comes from their propensity to contain soil and plant pathogens found in soil. In this case it is imperative that the artifacts do not contain soil or plant material.

There may also be issues of "cultural property" with respect to certain archaeological artifacts. Please contact the Canadian Border Services Agency before importing an archaeological artifact.

Paleontological remains are those which were previously alive i.e. are fossils. The concern for importing these items comes from the ability for fossils to contain live human or terrestrial animal pathogens, soil and plant pathogens found in soil.

  • If you are importing human skeletal remains, the Quarantine Act applies. Please follow the guidance found in memorandum D19-9-3. Our contact person at the Canadian Border Services Agency with respect to importing human archaeological/paleontological remains is Martha Nino and her direct line is 1-613-948-4836 - "Commercial Border Services Program".
  • If you are importing human remains, cadavers or other human specimens, the Anatomy Act and the Coroner's Act may also apply.
  • If you are importing any type of animal remains, please contact the local CFIA Animal Health Office (Hamilton) 905-572-2201 for guidance.
If you need additional information on biological material not listed above that you are planning to send or receive, please contact mbso@mcmaster.ca and customs@mcmaster.ca.