On July 7 2013 the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) released a discussion document entitled "A New Regulatory Framework for Federal Food Inspection". The CFIA is asking consumers and food industry stakeholders to comment on elements of the Safe Food for Canadians Action Plan, which aims to strengthen and modernise Canada's food safety system. The consultation will provide input into the regulations that are being developed in connection with the Safe Food for Canadians Act, which was passed in November 2012, but which is still not in force. The regulatory regime that will underlie the new legislation is still in the development process.

Consistent with regulation in other federal areas, the proposed food inspection regulations under the Safe Food for Canadians Act will be supported by a guidance document, which will provide examples of how outcomes could be achieved. The proposed regulations will impose requirements that apply to all federally regulated food commodities traded inter-provincially and internationally such as licensing, preventive controls, traceability, record keeping and a review mechanism. The regulatory framework document describes how existing federal licensing requirements would be extended to encompass all parties which import food commodities or prepare them for inter-provincial trade. All importers of food commodities would be required to be licensed.

The regulatory framework document notes that:

"Canada requires a food safety system capable of continuous improvement that evolves with new food safety practices, technology and other developments in industry to deliver the best possible protection for Canadians from food safety risks."

It is focused on industry responsibility for safe food commodities and requires globally recognised Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) based approaches best designed to deliver safe food commodities. The regulatory framework document also looks to provide industry with flexibility for food safety approaches within facilities (recognising that when it comes to food manufacturing, one size does not necessarily fit all) and enables rapid response to emerging food safety risks. Also key to the regulatory framework document is recognition of the need for alignment between provincial/territorial governments and international trading partners (in particular, the United States) to support greater market access.

The regulatory framework document describes new requirements in the following areas:

  • processes and product;
  • sanitation and pest control;
  • hygiene and competencies;
  • equipment design and maintenance;
  • physical structure and maintenance;
  • receiving, transportation and storage; and
  • recalls, complaints and record keeping.

While some of the requirements in the regulatory framework document will already have been implemented through food manufacturing controls plans (eg, HACCP plans) all food importers, distributors, manufacturers and retailers should review the regulatory framework document in the context of their own operations.

With respect to recalls, complaints and record keeping, for example, the regulatory framework document requires licence holders to:

  • develop, implement and maintain written procedures for the recall of food products;
  • develop and maintain any product distribution records that are necessary to facilitate the location of products in the event of a product recall;
  • review product recall procedures and conduct a product recall simulation at least once a year; and
  • make available to the inspector, in a readily accessible format and location, a copy of:
    • their product recall procedures;
    • their results of the product recall simulations for the previous year; and
    • their product distribution records for at least one year after the expiry date on the label or container or, if there is no expiry date, for at least two years after the date of sale.

The regulatory framework document focuses on compliance promotion and industry responsibility for quality systems at all stages of the food manufacturing, distribution and delivery systems.

The CFIA is accepting comments until November 30 2013.

For further information on this topic please contact Martha A Healey at Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP by telephone (+1 613 780 8638), fax (+1 613 230 5459) or email (martha.healey@nortonrosefulbright.com).

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