A look at what’s new in product regulation in Canada and abroad.

New Minister of Health

With the election of the Liberal government in the November 3rd election, a new Minister of Health has been appointed.  The new Minister of Health is Dr. Jane Philpott, a family physician and former Chief of the Department of Family Medicine at the Markham Stouffville Hospital in Ontario.

Quarterly Consumer Product Safety Incident Summary Report

At the end of October, Health Canada issued two quarterly reports on its data for consumer product and cosmetics reports. 

  • January 1 to March 31, 2015 – 465 incident reports were received of which 225 (48%) involved an injury.  Housewares and appliances were tied for the largest percentage of reports by category (23% each) followed by electronics (10%).  The most common reported injury type was irritation/allergic reaction.
  • April 1 to June 30, 2015 – 389 incident reports were received and 144 of those (37%) involved an injury.  As in previous Summary Reports, housewares represent the largest percentage of reports by category (23%), followed by appliances (23%) and children’s products (13%).  The most common reported injury type was irritation/allergic reaction.

Focus on Food Safety – In the US and In Canada

News coverage out of the US this fall brought attention to new FDA rules that aim to require US food manufacturers to implement more stringent food-safety operations.  This will include the development and implementation of detailed written plans to prevent food borne illnesses such as salmonella and E. coli.  The implementation of these rules is to be phased in over time – beginning in September 2016 for larger manufacturers. 

This American food safety focus mirrors, in many respects, Canada’s own Safe Food for Canadians Act.  The Safe Food For Canadians Act, passed in 2012, also aims to address food safety issues through licensing requirements, and changes to inspection powers and processes.  The details of exactly what these changes will require will be set out in Regulations to the Act that are still being developed. It is anticipated that they too will require licence holders to develop and implement written preventive control plans addressing:

  • Processes and products
  • Sanitation and pest control
  • Hygiene and competencies
  • Equipment design and maintenance
  • Physical structure and maintenance
  • Receiving, transportation and storage
  • Recalls, complaints and record-keeping

With changes in food safety rules, requirements and procedures in both the US and Canada, the issue of harmonization is at the fore.  Through the Canada/US Regulatory Cooperation Council, the American FDA and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are undertaking joint activities to implement the “Canada-FDA  Food Safety Systems Recognition Arrangement.”  This Arrangement is set to be finalized and signed by Fall 2015 and accompanying guides are to be released by the end of the year. 

We will be watching for developments on this.

An Unnatural Question ... A Canadian Perspective on US Food and Drug Administration Request for Public Commentary on the Use of the Term “Natural” on Food Labelling

As of November 12, 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration  has been accepting public comments on use of the term “natural” on food labelling and in particular:

  • Whether it is appropriate to define the term “natural;”
  • If so, how it should be defined; and
  • How to determine appropriate use of the term on food labels.

The FDA is seeking public commentary on this issue now as a result of multiple citizen petitions and requests from Federal courts to provide clearer guidance in the wake of litigation. 

The FDA has to-date permitted use of the term “natural” with respect to a food that does not contain added color, artificial flavours, or synthetic substances.  In contrast, Health Canada’s Food Labelling For Industry Guidance Document outlines a broader and more prescriptive set of expectations for foods and ingredients represented as natural.  These expectations relate both to the ingredients in a food and the methods of production andprocessing to which it has been subject.

It will be interesting to watch what changes, if any, result from the FDA public commentary process and whether any such changes bring the FDA requirements into closer alignment with the Canadian model.  We will be monitoring any reaction from Health Canada and Canadian stakeholders as this process continues.