3d human with a red question mark

On January 21 2017, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency commenced a consultation regarding proposed “Food Safety for Canadians Regulations”.  The proposed Regulations is lengthy and affects imports and importers of food products.  This is not meant to suggest that imports are unfairly targeted – this is not the case.  Inter-provincial trade in food products and exports of food products are also covered by the proposed Regulations.  Comments must be received by April 21, 2017 to be considered.

If approved, the proposed Regulations compliment the Safe Foods For Canadians Act, which was passed by Parliament in 2012. On November 22, 2012, it received Royal Assent.

The draft “Food Safety for Canadians Regulations” have been published in the Canadian Gazette.  The Regulatory Impact Statement and Background make it clear that imports are a focus of the proposed, wide-sweeping, regulations.  These new regulations will impact cross-border trade in food products (especially fruits & vegetables). Alcoholic beverages, food additives and unprocessed foods, like grains and oilseeds are currently poroposed to be exempted from licensing (subject to certain conditions).

It is important to note that harmonization between food safety regulations in Canada and the U.S. (recently introduced the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)) is an important aspect of the proposed Regulations.  Regulatory harmonization removes certain technical barriers to trade and reduces costs resulting from inconsistent rules.

In addition to adding new requirements the proposed Regulations consolidates 14 sets of existing regulations into one. According to the Backgrounder, the proposed Regulations would establish three key food safety elements:

“(1) Licences: Under the proposed Regulations, licences would be required for food importers, for persons (e.g. food businesses) preparing food for export or for interprovincial trade, with some exceptions (as described in the section “Exceptions and Exemptions”), and for persons slaughtering food animals from which meat products for export or interprovincial trade may be derived. Licence applications would require certain information from the applicant regarding their identity (e.g. business name) and business activities, which would inform risk-based oversight. The proposed licence would be valid for a period of two years for a fee of approximately $250, and could be suspended or cancelled in cases of non-compliance. Regulated parties would be able to apply for one or multiple licences.

(2) Traceability: The proposed Regulations would apply the international standard for traceability established by Codex to persons importing, exporting and interprovincially trading food, as well as to other persons holding a licence issued under the SFCA, and to growers and harvesters of fresh fruits or vegetables that are to be exported or traded interprovincially. Electronic or paper records would be required to be prepared and kept in order to track food forward to the immediate customer (e.g. a retailer or another food business) and backwards to the immediate supplier (i.e. one step forward, one step back along the supply chain). Retailers would not be required to trace forward their sales to consumers. The proposed Regulations would require that traceability information be provided, upon the Minister’s request, within 24 hours, or some shorter period, if the information is considered necessary to identify or respond to a risk of injury to human health, or some longer period if the information is not considered necessary for a recall that is or may be ordered. The information would need to be provided in French or in English and, where electronic, in a format that could be imported and manipulated by standard commercial software. The information would need to be accessible in Canada.

(3) Preventive controls and preventive control plan (PCP): The proposed Regulations would require food subject to the Regulations and activities (e.g. importing, preparing meat products for export or interprovincial trade) to meet food safety requirements and that those activities be conducted in a manner that is consistent with internationally recognized agricultural and manufacturing practices (i.e. GAPs, GMPs and HACCP). The proposed Regulations would address the following key preventive control elements:

  • sanitation, pest control, and non-food agents;
  • conveyances and equipment;
  • conditions respecting establishments;
  • unloading, loading and storing;
  • competency (i.e. for staff);
  • hygiene;
  • communicable diseases and lesions; and
  • investigation and notification, complaints and recall.”

For more information or to seek assistance in preparing a submission of the proposed “Food Safety for Canadians Regulations”, please contact Cyndee Todgham Cherniak at 416-307-4168 or at cyndee @lexsage.com.