Safe Food for Canadians Action Plan in the Works

By Sara Zborovski, LLP 

Recently, the government announced that it is taking action to further strengthen the Canadian food safety system.

According to this announcement, the Safe Food for Canadians Act, which was passed in November of last year, will come into force at the beginning of 2015. Over the next two years, the CFIA will work with consumer groups and industry to develop the regulations that are needed to support the Act. In the meantime, the CFIA will launch a number of significant food safety enhancements” called the Safe Food for Canadians Action Plan.

The Action Plan focuses on food safety improvements based on science, global trends and best practices.

Here’s an overview of what we know so far:

Stronger Food Safety Rules

A cornerstone of the Safe Food for Canadians Act is the strengthening and modernization of Canada’s food safety rules, including improvements in food traceability and enhanced requirements for record keeping. Under the Action Plan, the CFIA intends to:

    • improve the safety of imported food by requiring importers to put into place clear controls, and

 

    • develop new rules to reduce the risks posed by pathogens, such as E. coli.

 

More Effective Inspection

As previously reported, one of the key elements of the Safe Food for Canadians Act is its consolidation of four statutes into one in an attempt to impose a single, consistent approach to inspection across the entire food and beverage industry.

According to the announcement of the Action Plan, the CFIA is designing a new food inspection model to improve industry compliance with food safety legislation. It is also delivering better training to inspectors, improving recruitment strategies, and enhancing science capacity.

In addition, the CFIA will establish 16 centres of expertise to consolidate knowledge in specific programs of foods with a goal of creating a more efficient system for providing guidance and expert advice to both industry and inspectors.

Commitment to Service

The CFIA hopes to build a more secure electronic interface so it can share information with industry and international partners. In addition, the announcement states the agency will also introduce a clear, consistent set of inspection and enforcement rules to reduce red tape for Canadian food producers

Increased Information Sharing with Consumers

The CFIA is going to explore what kinds of information about food safety will be of most value to Canadians, and the best way to share the information. It will also be launching a comprehensive and public review of its requirements and enforcement of food labelling.

Focusing on Prevention

A major focus of the Safe Food for Canadians Act is its focus on preventing food safety issues.  In order to promote this, the CFIA will require all food manufacturers to be licensed and implement preventive control systems (such as HACCP), and promises to work with small and medium sized companies to “explore approaches tailored to their operational needs and assist them in achieving compliance.”

Next Steps

In the interim, before the Safe Food for Canadians Act comes into force, the CFIA will be implementing some changes using existing authorities and administrative guidelines.  The government’s announcement of the Action Plan promises that we will see a series of new initiatives that will modernize and build on Canada’s existing food safety system, and that the Action Plan will “deliver results.”

About the Author

Sara Zborovski is a partner at Gilbert’s LLP. She acts as legal counsel to the industries regulated by Health Canada, including the food and beverage industries. She assists companies in navigating the regulatory landscape imposed by the Food and Drugs Act and its related regulations, and advocates before all branches of Health Canada. Sara has a particular interest in food safety and advises clients on preparing and implementing compliance policies and programs. Sara works with clients to get products from idea to market and beyond, providing strategic advice on approvals, marketing strategies and compliance. www.thefoodlawyer.ca

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