A New Regulatory Framework for Federal Food Inspection: Discussion Document

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Canada has one of the best food safety systems in the world, but continuous improvement is needed to ensure that Canadians maintain access to safe food. The Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA), which received Royal Assent in November 2012, establishes a modern and robust legislative framework for the safety of food commodities sold to Canadians and provides for ongoing reviews of the federal food safety system in Canada.

The SFCA is the foundational element of the Safe Food for Canadians Action Plan – a comprehensive set of activities to improve Canada's food safety system and better manage risk to protect Canadian families. The Plan represents an ambitious transformation agenda in four strategic focus areas:

  • Stronger food safety rules (legislative and regulatory modernization efforts), which includes the SFCA and proposed regulations,
  • More effective inspection (inspection modernization, training for inspectors and enhancing science capacity),
  • Renewed commitment to service (statement of rights and services, service standards and user fees and compliance promotion), and
  • More information for consumers (transparency and labelling review)

While no food safety system can guarantee a completely risk-free environment, the Safe Food for Canadians Action Plan will contribute to consistent food safety approaches in Canada. We encourage you to find out more about the Safe Food for Canadians Action Plan.

To strengthen food safety rules, a new regulatory regime must be crafted as the SFCA replaces three CFIA inspection statutes – the Canada Agricultural Products Act (CAPA), the Fish Inspection Act (FIA), the Meat Inspection Act (MIA), and the food-related provisions of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act (CPLA). The intent is that regulations made under these statutes will be consolidated into the proposed regulations. It is expected these regulations will be in place and the Act in force at the beginning of 2015.

The regulations also represent an important step in the implementation of the CFIA Improved Food Inspection Model which was developed and widely consulted on during 2012 and 2013. Key features of the model, including licensing of food commodity importers and those who prepare food commodities for inter-provincial trade and the introduction of preventive control plans, represent transformational changes on which further consultation will be undertaken here in the context of developing the proposed federal food inspection regulations.

Once the SFCA is in force, two federal legislative regimes will apply to food in Canada instead of five – the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and regulations, which apply to all food sold in Canada, and the SFCA and regulations, which include requirements that apply to food that is imported, exported, or prepared for trade across provincial borders. Both Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) are modernizing their respective regulatory frameworks and are committed to working together and with stakeholders in the regulatory development processes.

This paper sets out elements of a proposed regulatory framework under the SFCA and marks the first consultation step in the regulatory transformation process. It highlights particular proposals and introduces new approaches in order to stimulate debate, generate ideas, and provide a starting point for discussions.

The Government is seeking feedback on all aspects of the proposed regulatory framework, including the overall approach and specific elements. We invite all food industry stakeholders and Canadians to make their views known on these and other issues related to the proposed regulatory framework so that the future regulations for this essential sector of our economy works as well as it can to protect all Canadians.

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