Major Changes Afoot in Grain Marketing and Milling
With the August 1, 2012 demise of the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly powers over wheat marketing, firms are moving to take advantage of new opportunities. Switzerland’s Glencore International is purchasing Viterra, and plans to subsequently sell the processing assets to Richardson International. Japan’s Nisshin Seifun/Nisshin Flour Milling, already owners of British Columbia-based Rogers Foods, has purchased Miller Milling, the US’ ninth largest milling company.
Food Safety Agencies
In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for both food health policy as well as industry compliance and enforcement. Canada has a bifurcated system whereby health policy is set by Health Canada headed by the Minister of Health. Field compliance and enforcement is the responsibility of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), headed by a president who reports to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
Harmonization of Food Safety Statutes
There is a fundamental lack of regulatory harmonization caused by differences in U.S. and Canadian law. Section 4 of the Canada Food & Drugs Act says: “No person shall sell an article of food that has in or on it any poisonous or harmful substance.” On its face, this standard appears to be inflexible, and to not allow for consideration of health effects.
In contrast, Section 402 of the US Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act says: “A food shall be deemed adulterated if it bears or contains any poisonous or deleterious substance which may render it injurious to health; but in case the substance is not an added substance such food shall not be considered adulterated… if the quantity of such substance does not ordinarily render it injurious to health.”
NAMA supports the harmonization of the Canadian and U.S. food safety laws and regulations whenever possible. A key harmonization step would be to align the two laws referenced in the previous paragraph. The US law provides much more discretion to manage contaminants in a more realistic fashion. The Canadian National Millers Association (CNMA) has drafted language to achieve this alignment of laws. Parliament passed omnibus legislation in June of 2012 that amended the Canada Food and Drugs Act but it did not include language to align the two food safety laws. A specific food safety bill, S-11, has been introduced in Parliament and CNMA has been asked to submit a draft amendment to accomplish the alignment for consideration when the legislature returns in the fall.
U.S. and Canada Mycotoxin Standards
Canada’s maximum DON level is 2 ppm in uncleaned soft wheat for human consumption, and 1 ppm in uncleaned soft wheat for use in baby foods. The FDA guideline for DON is 1 ppm on flour.
CFIA has proposed these ochratoxin A (OTA) maximum limits: raw grains 5 ppb, flour 3 ppb, bran 7 ppb, breakfast cereals 3 ppb, and baby cereals 0.5 ppb. Even though these OTA levels are merely proposed, in 2010 CFIA stepped up sampling of raw grain and milled grain products. The infant cereal ML is to be identified as “interim”, meaning in force but still under study. The unprocessed grain ML is to be voluntary, not subject to enforcement.
The FDA has not proposed limits for OTA. This has the potential to create a non-tariff trade barrier.
Canada also chairs the committee of Codex (UN body which drafts model food laws) discussing establishing maximum limits for DON. Prior to the March 2012 Codex meeting, NAMA met with the FDA officials comprising the US delegation, as well as with the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and explained the logic and value of the US approach, i.e., using guidelines and not action levels, and not setting a guideline on raw grain. As a result, the US delegation did not support the Codex proposal and the issue has been put off for another year. Canada will be preparing a paper to address the comments raised, including those of the US.
Prepared by Jim Bair, Vice President, 202.484.2200, ext. 14, [email protected]
Last updated September 6, 2012