Food Safety Agencies
The government of Canada has announced that the food safety responsibilities of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will be moved from the Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food into the Ministry of Health. Previously, Canada possessed a bifurcated food safety system whereby health policy was set by Health Canada, while field compliance inspections were the responsibility of the Agriculture Canada via CFIA . This led to less than ideal communication and coordination of the food safety portfolio. Hopefully, placing all these food safety functions within Health Canada will improve the situation.
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 not allowing for consideration of health effects.
In contrast, the U.S. law provides much more discretion to manage contaminants in a more realistic fashion. The U.S. 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 food safety laws.
Parliament missed opportunities in 2012 to amend the Canada Food and Drugs Act and include language to align the two food safety laws. NAMA and the Canadian National Millers Association will continue to seek opportunities to achieve alignment.
Prepared by Jim Bair, Vice President, 202.484.2200, ext. 14, [email protected]
Last updated October 2013