A New Regulatory Framework for Federal Food Inspection: Discussion Document
Consumer Protection and Labelling

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The food label is one of the most important and direct means of communicating product information between buyers and sellers. It is one of the primary means by which consumers differentiate between individual foods and brands to make informed purchasing choices.

Labelling provisions exist in the FDR, MIR, FIR, CPLR and the regulations under CAPA. Some of these provisions apply to all food commodities (e.g., common name, net quantity). Other provisions are commodity-specific (e.g., percentage of milk fat declaration on certain dairy products).

The CFIA Food Labelling Modernization Initiative aims to develop a modern and innovative food labelling system. Improvements to the food labelling system based on the results of this initiative, including any changes to the labelling requirements, will happen over time. A discussion document on Food Labelling Modernization is available.

In the interim, the current regulatory modernization process is an opportunity to make some adjustments to the requirements including addressing any duplication between the various regulations. Below is the proposed approach to these issues that is being considered in the short term.

Horizontal Labelling Requirements

There is duplication and inconsistency across the existing labelling related regulations that CFIA enforces. The labelling requirements in the FDR are outside the scope of this proposed regulatory framework and will not change as part of this exercise. Therefore, it is recommended that where there is duplication with the FDR, reference to the FDR will be made in the proposed regulations, where appropriate, rather than having two different requirements.

Question 22: What are your thoughts on the proposed approach to referencing the FDR where appropriate?

Commodity Specific Consumer Protection Requirements

Existing regulations contain numerous commodity specific requirements, such as compositional standards, grades, inspection marks, labelling and packaging (including container sizes). The provisions vary significantly between regulations and can be challenging to apply, particularly for regulated parties that deal with multiple food commodities.

The approach for the proposed regulatory framework will involve a detailed review of the existing provisions and consideration of whether requirements should apply to all food commodities or be commodity-specific if they are still justified. This has resulted in three proposed groupings:

1) Where the requirements should apply to all food commodities, the CFIA will replace the multiplicity of commodity-specific requirements with a single requirement that will apply to all food commodities. This is proposed for the following:

  • Font size and legibility
  • Positioning on labels
  • Inspection marks
  • Language requirements (French and English)

2) Where commodity-specific requirements are justified, no substantive changes will be made to requirements. However, provisions of similar purpose will be grouped together. This approach would allow for a general consolidation of requirements without causing major disruptions to regulated parties. This is proposed for the following:

  • Grade standards
  • Standards of Identity
  • Container sizes

The CFIA is reviewing whether some of these commodity-specific requirements would be appropriate for incorporation by reference. Pursuant to the SFCA, the Governor in Council will have the explicit authority to seek the incorporation by reference of documents into regulations under the SFCA. Documents appropriately incorporated by reference have the force of law. There is also authority for the Government to make modifications to its own incorporated documents as opposed to requiring regulatory amendments. This helps to reduce regulatory delays, cuts red tape and makes the food safety regulatory system more efficient and flexible. Although changes to incorporated documents do not go through the full regulatory process, the public and stakeholders will be consulted on changes made to any Government document incorporated by reference. The CFIA, jointly with Health Canada, is in the process of developing a policy on incorporation by reference on which there will be consultation with stakeholders in the future.

3) Where the requirements are no longer justified, consideration is being given to not including them in the proposed regulations in order to reduce unnecessary regulatory burden.

Annex 3 contains examples of the commodity specific requirements discussed above and demonstrates how this approach could be applied.

Question 23: Do you support the use of incorporation by reference for the grade standards, standards of identity, container sizes? Under what conditions/controls should IBR be used or not used?

Question 24: Do you support the proposed approach to the commodity-specific requirements?

Standards of Identity

Standards of identity (also referred to as compositional standards) list permitted ingredients or specific requirements for a named food commodity. There are over 250 standards in the FDR and in MIR, FIR and regulations under CAPA, sometimes creating duplication or inconsistency. The existence of two standards for the same food commodity can present challenges.

The proposed regulations will address the duplication and differences between regulations by conducting a provision by provision analysis to determine which standards should be kept and, when it is appropriate, which FDR standard should be referenced. Each standard will be evaluated to determine the approach to be applied.

Question 25: Do you have any comments that CFIA and Health Canada should take into account as we work to consider the best approach regarding existing standards?

Country of Origin Labelling

In Canada, there are requirements for certain food commodities to be labelled with the country of origin (e.g., certain imported meat, dairy products, honey, maple products, and poultry). Regulated parties may also make voluntary claims to highlight the origins of a food commodity. Country of origin labelling does not provide information on the safety of a food commodity.

Requirements for country of origin labelling vary between regulations, including which food commodity labels must include the country of origin (e.g., pre-packaged vs. bulk); circumstances when the country of origin is required to be included on the label (e.g., in all cases, only if imported, if packed for export, if domestically produced); and, how it must be declared (e.g., wording, language, location, type size).

Requirements for country of origin labelling may ultimately be addressed through the Food Labelling Modernization initiative. In the interim, requirements regarding country of origin labelling will be carried as is into the proposed regulatory framework, while the Food Labelling Modernization initiative works to consult stakeholders. The existing requirements will be consolidated and grouped, in an appropriate fashion, so that any duplication in the wording would be resolved.

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