On November 4, 2023, proposed amendments to the regulatory framework for food compositional standards were published in the Canada Gazette, Part I. Under these amendments, food compositional standards will no longer be found directly in the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) and will instead be moved to a new document incorporated by reference, entitled the Food Compositional Standards Document (the Standards Document)
Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) proposed these amendments as part of their plan to modernize food regulations and allow for innovative and safe foods for Canadians. In addition to food compositional standards, there will be updates to food microbiological criteria, official methods of analysis, and food additives, amongst other things. These updates will similarly use incorporation by reference (IBR) to move certain elements out of the FDR, including for example, the official method for measuring the protein quality of foods.
By adopting the IBR approach for various food standards and requirements, Health Canada and CFIA intend to create a more agile regulatory framework, enabling more timely updates in order to align with industry trends, new innovations and international standards.
Overview of changes to food compositional standards
Food compositional standards, also known as standards of identity, establish requirements for certain foods that define that particular food and set out technical specifications, permitted ingredients, quality standards, manufacturing methods, and prescribed common name. The FDR provides over 300 food compositional standards for various food items and categories, such as bakery products, fruits and vegetables, and meat and meat products.
Health Canada and the CFIA are proposing to repeal these food compositional standards from the FDR and move them into the new Standards Document which will be incorporated by reference into the FDR. This amendment will also trigger consequential amendments and revisions to other legislation and documents incorporated by reference as necessary to implement the new Standards Document.
By using IBR Health Canada and CFIA will be able to update and modify standards without the lengthy process of regulatory amendment, as is currently the case. The intent is a more responsive and efficient approach to maintaining food compositional standards in accordance with industry changes, scientific advancements and international standards as set out in the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
Similar to the FDR, the new Standards Document will establish standards in 19 categories, including:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Dairy products
- Flavouring preparations
- Fruits and vegetables (and their products and substitutes)
- Grain and bakery products
- Meat and meat products
As a first step, the existing FDR standards and other related provisions addressing compositional requirements will be moved to the Standards Document mostly 'as is'.
However, aspects of standards that are related to health and safety will remain in the FDR (e.g. food fortification and microbiological safety rules), references to food additives within standards will be revised to avoid duplication with the Lists of Permitted Food Additives, and some minor amendments to clarify existing regulatory requirements for certain foods will be made (e.g. updating the French term for "brandy" to reflect its English counterpart).
After the Regulations come into force, changes to the Standards Document will follow the general process set out in the CFIA Incorporation by Reference Policy. In accordance with that policy, stakeholders are notified and provided the opportunity to comment on proposed revisions to the Standards Document. Stakeholders can also request modifications to the Standards Document and other IBR documents.
Timelines and next steps
From November 4, 2023 to February 2, 2024, Health Canada is seeking comments from stakeholders on the proposed regulations.
At this time, there is no proposed transition period for the proposed regulations, which would come into force on the day on which they are published in Canada Gazette, Part II.